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"We are therefore, I conceive, entitled to cast aside as an utter calumny, 
the allegation of bribery against the members of the Scottish Parliament. 
Exactly the same allegation, and on just as flimsy grounds, was, on 
occasion of the Irish Union a century afterwards, brought against the 
members of the Irish Parliament." 

Lord Stanhope, Iieign of Queen Anne. 

ILontion : 




The right of translation is reserved. 


Richard Clay and Sons, 
london and bungay. 


Though a century has not elapsed since the Legisla- 
tive Union of Great Britain and Ireland was accomplished, 
ignorance or doubt has gathered round its history. Mis- 
representation and unworthy declamation have obscured 
all the facts of the case. The original sources of 
information have been neglected or wilfully avoided, and 
credit has been given to statements in one-sided and 
extravagant books, like Grattan's Life, 1 or worthless 
publications such as Barrington's romances. Of these 
writings, it is not too much to say that, in them almost 
every event which occurred during the progress of the 
Union contest, is misrepresented, exaggerated, or coloured 

1 One assertion of the younger Grattan will show us the value of his 
statements. He says " Only 7,000 individuals petitioned in favour 
of the Union, and 110,000 freeholders and 707,000 persons signed 
petitions against the measure." He gives no authority for this 
statement. Of the seventy-four declarations and petitions in favour of 
the Union, four alone, those sent forward by the Catholics of Wexford 
city, of county Leitrim and of county Roscommon, and the mixed 
declaration of county Tyrone, were signed by upwards of 9,330 



to suit the opinions of their authors, and that every- 
thing favourable to the Government is carefully kept 
out of sight. 

Dissatisfied with endless assertions unaccompanied by 
proof, the author of the present work determined to 
investigate the subject for himself. For this purpose he 
examined closely and in detail the original and contem- 
poraneous authorities. At an early stage of the inquiry , 
he was surprised to find that there was no evidence to 
sustain the accusations made against the manner in which 
the Union was carried, and that all the charges against the 
Government rested finally on the stories of Barrington, 
or on the declamatory statements of the Opposition 
during the sessions of 1799 and 1800, statements which, 
when the anti-Unionists were challenged in both Houses 
of Parliament to substantiate, they declined to do so. 
As the author proceeded in his search, he discovered 
that, after its terms were made known, and the public 
had had time for reflection, the Union was thankfully 
accepted by the two communities which made up 
Ireland ; that the Protestants, after the first burst of 
clamour, were, as a body, converted, aud became well- 
wishers to the measure ; and that the Catholics, after a 
short hesitation, gave the Union their hearty assent and 

The whole inquiry has left a strong conviction on the 


author's mind that the Union was undertaken from the 
purest motives, that it was carried by fair and constitu- 
tional means, and that its final accomplishment was 
accompanied with the hearty assent and concurrence of 
the vast majority of the two peoples that dwelt in 
Ireland. And he now lays before the public the evidence 
which has produced that conviction, supporting every 
statement of fact by reference to his authorities. 

Though, in the writer's opinion, the Irish Union is free 
from any taint of corruption, yet a grave mistake was 
committed at its close, in that it was not immediately 
followed up by its natural complement, the emancipation 
of the Catholics not only in Ireland, but also throughout 
the Empire. This was not, however, the fault of the 
three eminent statesmen who carried the measure — Pitt, 
Cornwallis, and Castlereagh. 

April 15, 1887. 






























Early legislative connections between England and Ireland. — 
Poynings' Law. — Attempts of the Irish Parliament at a Legislative 
Union. — The Penal Code. — Opinions of distinguished writers and 
thinkers on the advantages of a Legislative Union. 

In the reign of Edward I. barons, prelates, and 
citizens were summoned from Ireland to serve in the 
English Parliament, and did serve therein. We find in 
the AVhite Book of the Exchequer in Dublin a writ 
issued in the ninth year of this king to his Chancellor 
of Ireland, wherein are mentioned " Qusedam statuta per 
nos de assensu Prelatorum, Comitum, Baronum et com- 
munitates regni nostri Hibernise nuper apud Lincoln et 
quzedam alia statuta postmodum apud Eborum facta." 1 

Prynne discovered a writ whereby in the eighth year 
of Edward II. Lords of Ireland were summoned to a 

1 Molyneux, Case of Ireland, 95. 




Parliament at Westminster to treat and confer " de aliis 
negotiis arduis et urgentibus nos contingentibus." But 
he denied that this was a summons to them as members 
of the Parliament, on the ground that the words " ves- 
trumque consilium impensuri " were wanting in the writ. 
Leland points out that these words were not at the time 
a necessary part of it, several subsequent and undoubted 
writs not containing them. 1 Prynne also overlooked a 
prior writ of the second year of this king directed to 
" R. electo Dublin episcopo cseterisque Episcopis necnon 
Abbatibus et Prioribus," 2 

In the reign of Edward III. Irish representatives 
served in the English Parliament. We find in the fiftieth 
year of this king a writ directed to the Lord Justice of 
Ireland and the Archbishop of Dublin, requiring them 
to issue writs to the several counties, cities, and boroughs 
" for satisfying the expenses of the men of that land 
who last came over to serve in Parliament in England." 3 
In another roll of the same year, the case of John 
Draper, who served in the English Parliament for Cork, 
is mentioned. 4 

In this year also writs were again issued to Irish 
constituencies to send members to the Parliament at 
Westminster, and we have the returns made to them by 
the clergy, cities, and boroughs. In the majority of 
these returns, though not in all, the electors declare that 
they are not bound to send representatives to the English 
Parliament. Notwithstanding, they go on to say, on 
account of their reverence for the king and his present 

1 Lelancl, vol. ii. App. 2 lb. and Dugclale, 65. 

3 Molyneux, 97. 4 lb. 



necessity, they have elected persons to repair to 
Westminster, and to treat and consult with him and 
his Council. 1 

Owing principally to the danger and difficulty of the 
journey, the practice of sending representatives to the 
English Parliament from Ireland was given up, and the 
regular course of Irish Parliaments established. 2 

Voyages between England and Ireland were not 
formerly frequent, and many things happened in the 
latter kingdom which were not known till lono- after- 
wards in England. The Irish Viceroy, or Deputy, had, 
before the reign of Henry VII., the power of giving the 
royal assent to Irish bills without their being considered 
in England by the king and his council. Though at 
times a specific prohibition was conveyed to a Viceroy 
against passing any laws which had not been examined in 
England, there was no general enactment on the subject. 
This system occasionally gave rise to a difference of 
policy between the two countries, which was agreeable 
neither to the English Government nor to the Anglo- 
Irish colony. In the reign of Henry VII. a successful 
attempt was made by the Irish Parliament to connect 
itself more closely with the Government in England. 
This was effected by the enactment known as Poynings' 
law, so often misrepresented or misunderstood. This 
statute provided that all laws intended to be passed in 

1 Leland, vol. i. App. In one of the Union debates Sir 
Laurence Parsons said that it was the Irish Parliament which 
protested against Irish representatives being summoned to EDgland. 
It was really some of the constituencies which protested. 

2 Molyneux, 98. 3 Pari. Deb. i. 154. 

B 2 


Ireland should be certified under the great seal of that 
kingdom, as a mark of authority that they really came 
from the Irish Parliament, and that they should be 
returned by the king under his great seal, as a warrant 
authorising the Irish Governor to give the royal assent 
to them. The Anglo-Irish had long suffered from the 
folly or injustice of the local government, which was 
able to model the Parliament, dictate laws, and impose 
taxes at its will. The treason of a Deputy had fre- 
quently drawn general and severe punishment on the 
subjects of the pale. Ireland was at this time intensely 
Yorkist, and the White Rose had firmly maintained 
itself in that country for nine years after the battle of 
Bosworth. 1 Shortly before the passing of Poynings' 
law Lambert Simnel had been crowned king at Christ's 
Church, in Dublin, with the connivance of the Deputy, 
Kildare. A Parliament had been convened, in which 
laws were passed, taxes imposed, and vengeance 
denounced against those who should oppose the 
pretender. 2 It was to protect the king on the one 
side, and the Irish subjects on the other, that Poynings' 
law was passed. This enactment was made, in its own 
words, "at the request of the Commons of that land." 
Far from being considered as a restriction, it was looked 
upon as a safeguard, and no Act was ever more popular. 3 

1 In the reign of Henry YI. the Duke of York had been for ten 
years Yiceroy in Ireland, and had planted many of his adherents 
there. — Flood, Pari. Deb. i. 151. 2 Leland, ii. 8. 

3 "Do we understand its meaning better than the people in 
whose days it was passed, or they who succeeded for an hundred 
years after 1 By them it was considered as a boon and a favour." 
— Flood, Pari Deb. i. 152. 



The Irish Parliament and public long considered this 
law as the best security of the subject. During the 
reign of Elizabeth the Irish Government repeatedly 
contended for its occasional suspension. With one 
exception, the people vigorously and successfully opposed 
these attempts. 1 Dublin was then practically as distant 
from London as America now is. The little and distant 
colony of Englishmen dreaded the unauthorised power 
of a Lord Deputy, supported by a Parliament composed 
of his own creatures. Poynings' Act was really 
intended to prevent the Irish Deputies from passing 
laws through interested motives or under frivolous 
pretences, and giving them the royal assent without the 
knowledge of the sovereign. 2 

During the Commonwealth Ireland was incorporated 
with the rest of the empire, and sent thirty repre- 
sentatives to the Protectorate Parliaments of 1654 and 
1657 respectively. 3 After the Restoration this system 
ceased, and things returned to the old state of separate 

In 1703 the Irish Parliament made an attempt at an 
incorporate or legislative union with England, which, 
unfortunately, was not successful. Mr. Froude has 
told us the story of this attempt. " On the 29th of 

1 Leland, vol. ii. App. Flood, Pari. Deb. i. 152. 

2 Grattans Life, i. 94. 

3 The new Great Seal ordered by the Long Parliament and used 
by Cromwell, had on one side the arms of England and Ireland 
with the inscription, " The Great Seal of England ; " on the other 
a representation of the House of Commons sitting within the 
motto, " In the first year of freedom by God's blessing restored." — 
Clarendon's Hist. 



September the Commons voted an address to the 
Queen protesting against the suspicion that they wished 
to make Ireland independent, and declaring their entire 
conviction that their welfare depended on the main- 
tenance of the connection with England. On the 4th of 
October Southwell wrote that the Commons had sat that 
day to consider the state of the nation, and after some 
hours' sitting and considering the many misfortunes the 
country lay under, all the speakers concluded that they 
did in most earnest manner desire a union with England." 
" On the 20th of October they framed their most 
serious discontents and desires into a direct address 
to the Crown, After enumerating their distresses they 
implored the Queen to concede the only means which 
could remove them — a firm and strict union with 
England." 1 

On October 25th in the same year, the Irish House of 
Lords, having taken into their serious consideration the 
state of the nation, came to the following resolution : — 
" That it was their opinion upon due consideration of 
the present constitution of this kingdom that such an 
humble representation be made to the Queen of the 
state and condition thereof as may best incline Her 
Majesty, by such proper means as to Her Majesty should 
seem fit, to promote such an union with England as 
may qualify the states of this kingdom to be repre- 
sented there." 2 

In 1707 the Irish Commons again returned to this 
matter. In their address of congratulation to the 

1 English in Ireland, 300-301. 

2 House of Lords Journals, ii. 29. 


Queen on the completion of the Scotch union they 
renewed in solemn language the request which they had 
made in 1703. "May God long preserve that life on 
which your people's happiness so much depends. May 
He put it in your royal heart to add greater strength 
and lustre to your crown by a yet more comprehensive 
union." 1 

In this year the Lords also congratulated the Queen 
on the Scotch union. After stating that that union 
would be an effectual means of quieting the empire, they 
proceed: — "May your Majesty go on and extend your 
favour to all your subjects till none are excluded from 
so great a blessing, but such as, by their own 
frowardness or disaffection to the public good, bar 
themselves from the general advantages of your 
Majesty's glorious reign ; and we do hope your 
Majesty's unparalleled goodness and wisdom will 
conquer even those, and make them sensible of their 
true interest.*' - 

These advances of the Irish Parliament were coldly 
received by the Queen and her ministers, who would 
not listen to the proposal of a union with Ireland. The 
reason of this short-sighted policy was that no danger 
was apprehended from a subordinate legislature. As 
long as the Irish Parliament was regarded as dependent 
on that of England, and English laws were considered 

» © 

to bind the Irish subject, there was no fear of any 
divergence in legislative aims or enactments. It was 
the existence of two equal and independent voices 

1 Commons Journals, July 9th, 1707. 

2 House of Lords Journals, ii. 161. 


in the empire which was dreaded, and which the 
experience of Scotland had shown to be dangerous 
to the unity of the State. The English Parliament 
had just ordered Molyneux's book to be burned for 
denying its authority over Ireland, and had ad- 
ministered a rebuke to the Irish Assembly for ven- 
turing to claim legislative independence in re-enacting 
an English law which had been expressly made to 
bind Ireland. 1 

It is remarkable that the penal code was enacted by 
the Irish Parliament after their ineffectual attempts to 
obtain a legislative union with England. That body 
saw that the English connection, was the only security of 
the Irish Protestants, and, as they were unable to draw 
it as close as they desired, they considered that the 
political power of the Catholics was incompatible with 
Protestant security, and that it was necessary to reduce 
them to a state of inability. Penal and disqualifying 
laws are hateful to us all, but our hatred of such 
restrictions should not prevent us from doing historical 
justice to the Protestant community and Parliament of 
Ireland, and from duly estimating the difficulties of their 
situation. In 1702, when the first Parliament of Anne 
met, fourteen years had not elapsed since the last 
determined attempt of the Catholics to root out of 
Ireland the name and the religion of Protestants ; since 
the Catholics had thrown off the rule of England, and 

1 A bill for "the better security of her Majesty's person and 
government," re-enacting an English Act for abrogating the oath of 
supremacy in Ireland, had been lately transmitted from Ireland to 



united themselves with her enemy, France ; and since a 
persecution of the Protestants " as cruel as that of 
Languedoc 1 had raged in every part of Ireland which 
owned the authority of the Catholic Government.' 2 
Penal laws against the Catholics stood on very different 
grounds in England and in Ireland. In England, the 
Protestants were as a hundred to one ; in Ireland, they 
were as one to four, or even in a still greater dispropor- 
tion. There was in England but little danger to be feared 
from a body which was so small and inconsiderable, but 
in Ireland the Catholics formed an overwhelming majority 
hostile to the Protestants and the English connectioD. 
What in England bore the appearance of persecution 
might in Ireland be considered a justifiable and neces- 
sary policy. There was nor a member in either House 
of the Irish Parliament of 1702, which commenced the 
enactment of the Penal Code, of forty years of age and 
upwards, who had not suffered in person or estate from 
the violence and cruelty of the Catholics during their 
tenure of power from 16S6 to 1690, or who had not 
witnessed scenes of oppression and outrage. The vast 
majority of the Lords and Commons who met in 1702 
had had their estates forfeited, or they themselves had 
been, without a crime, without a trial, or possibility of 

1 Maeaulay. 

2 In his " Instructions to the Commissioners of Oyer and 
Terminer/' James II. himself bewails the general desolation of the 
land^and " the many robberies, oppressions, and outrages committed 
through all ['art.- of the kingdom to the otter ruin thereof, and to 
the great scandal of the Government as well as of Christianity.' ' • 
App. to King's State of the Protestants. 



pardon, 1 condemned to the scaffold or the block. 2 Each 
individual among them had seen the Protestants dis- 
armed, excluded from the army, and exposed to the 
outrages of an uncivilised and infuriated peasantry ; the 
Courts of Justice handed over to their declared enemies ; 
the whole executive power of the country transferred to 
the Catholics ; 3 and every corporation in the kingdom 
practically closed to the Protestants. These are 
historical facts which cannot be gainsaid, and which it 
is our bounden duty to keep in mind when we judge the 
Parliament of Ireland and the Protestant community in 
that country. If the Parliament of England and the 
English people, with no immediate sense of danger, 
sanctioned penal laws against the Catholics of England, 
how much more natural was it that the Protestants of 
Ireland, scattered among a population hostile to them, 
their religion, and the English connection, should seek to 

1 By the great Act of. Attainder James II., very much to his 
indignation, was precluded from pardoning any person mentioned 
in it. 

2 By this Act seventy-three members of the House of Lords, 
and the great majority of the Commons, were condemned to death. 
The number of persons attainted and doomed were, 2 archbishops ; 
i duke ; 63 temporal lords ; 22 ladies ; 7 bishops ; 85 knights and 
baronets; 83 clergymen; and 2,182 esquires, &c. In fact, the 
whole Protestant peerage and gentry of Ireland were at one sweep 
condemned to death. The Act was concealed for some months, till 
the time limited for surrender had expired, so that, as the king 
could not pardon, there was no possibility of escape. Macaulay ; 
Archbishop King. List of the Persons Attainted in the Parliament of 
Ireland, 1689. London, 1690. 

3 In 1687 there was but one Protestant sheriff in all Ireland, 
Charles Hamilton, and he was appointed in mistake for another of 
the same name who was a Catholic. 



fortify themselves by disqualifying laws against those 
whom they believed to be their irreconcilable enemies. 

The dangers and difficulties arising from the existence 
in Ireland of two nations differing in religion, customs, 
and traditions ; and the possibility of independent 
Parliaments taking divergent paths, concurred with 
economical considerations in disposing the best and 
clearest heads in both countries to desire a legislative 
union or incorporation of the two kingdoms. From 
about the year 1670 we find a long list of distinguished 
writers and thinkers who recommend such a union. It 
would swell these pages unduly if all were mentioned ; 
we shall therefore only quote the opinions of the 
principal ones. 

In 1676 the Irish Council of Trade, in a report to 
the Lord Lieutenant, recommended an incorporate union 
on the plan of that between England and Wales. 

In the same year Sir William Petty advised such a 
union. " May not," says he, " the three kingdoms be 
united into one and equally represented in Parliament ? 
Might not the taxes be equally applotted and directly 
applied to their ultimate use ? And why is not that 
natural and firm union made between the two [English 
and Irish] peoples ? " And again, "If both kingdoms 
were under one legislature, power, and Parliament, the 
members whereof should be proportionable in power 
and wealth of each nation, there would be no danger 
such a Parliament should do anything to the prejudice 
of the English interest in Ireland, nor could the Irish 
ever complain of partiality when they shall be freely 
and proportionally represented in all Parliaments." 



In 1694 Sir William Brewster thus speaks, "Though 
the sea part us, may not laws make us one, so that 
Ireland may be more profitable to England in general 
than Wales, or than any county is to the whole in its 
proportion ? Keeping Ireland a separate kingdom hath 
supported the Irish in the pretence of their right to it. 
But if their Parliaments were abolished, and the king- 
dom united, we should become one people which we 
never can be while we live under different laws and 

In 1698 the celebrated Molyneux sighed for a legisla- 
tive union. The whole of his little but famous book 
may be condensed into a single sentence. Ireland, 
argues Molyneux, is not bound by Acts of the English 
Parliament, because she is not represented there. Would 
to Heaven she were ! A few lines of his own sum up the 
gist of his treatise. " If from these last-mentioned records 
it be concluded that the Parliament of England may 
bind Ireland, it must also be allowed that the people 
of Ireland ought to have their representatives in the 
Parliament of England. And this, 1 believe, we should 
be ivilling enough to embrace ; but this is an happiness 
we can hardly hope for." 1 

The first edition of this book was published by the 
author himself in 1698. It is significant that an 
edition was published in 1782 with the words which 
we have italicised omitted. 2 

In 1703, about the time when the Irish legislature 

1 The Case of Ireland, edition 1698, p. 17. 

2 The imposition was detected by Mr. Johnson in his Reasons for 
Adopting a Union, one of the Union pamphlets. 



was unsuccessfully soliciting a union with England, 
Mr., afterwards Lord, Molesworth, a member of the 
Irish Commons and Chairman of one or more of the 
Committees that addressed the Queen on this subject, 
thus speaks : — " The ease and advantage which would 
be gained by uniting our own three kingdoms upon 
equal terms (for upon unequal it would be no union) 
is so visible, that if we had not the example of those 
masters of the world, the Romans, before our eyes, one 
would wonder that our own experience, in the instance 
of uniting Wales to England, should not convince us, 
that although both sides should incredibly gain by it, 
yet the rich and opulent country, to which such addition 
is made, would be the greater gainer." 

In i 735 the great Irishman, Bishop Berkeley, published 
his queries. These queries leave no doubt as to the 
author's opinion on the subject of a union with England. 
We shall quote but one of them. " Whether anything 
can hurt us more than jealousy between England and 
Ireland, and whether it be not the interest of both 
nations to become one people, and whether either be 
sufficiently apprised of this ? " 

In 1749, in his remarkable essay, On the Causes of 
the Decline of Foreign Trade, Sir Matthew Decker 
advocated a legislative union and a complete abolition 
of trade restrictions between England and Ireland. 
"By a union with Ireland no discontent could arise, 
but a general improvement spread over the three 
kingdoms without prejudice to each other." 

In the year 1751 a very able plea for a union with 
Great Britain was published in Dublin. The publica- 



tion was attributed to an Irish nobleman of large 
possessions. Its title was, A Proposal for Uniting the 
Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. The author 
explains his idea of a union in these words : — " I do not 
mean a federal and partial union, but a complete 
incorporation of the two kingdoms inseparably and 
perpetually united ; formed into one government under 
the same king and the same laws, and represented by 
the same Parliament ; enjoying the same privileges and 
immunities, confined to the same restrictions, prohibi- 
tions, and regulations in trade ; having the same 
alliances, the same enemies ; and paying an equal 
proportion of taxes, customs, excise — both in peace 
and war — that in all instances they may become one 
people in affection as well as interest." 

In 1767 Postlethwayt, an able commercial writer, 
strongly advocated a union of Ireland and Great 
Britain. " Bodies politic, like natural ones, are so 
far strong and potent, as all their limbs are firmly 
knit and well united, and equally fed and nourished ; 
and while Ireland shall continue excluded from the 
favours, rights, and privileges, which her fellow subjects 
in England, Wales, and Scotland, so happily enjoy, 
she cannot prosper herself as she would otherwise do, 
and, therefore, cannot so much contribute as she might 
to the general wealth, strength, and security, of the 
whole State. If we dispassionately weigh these things, 
a union will appear in every view desirable by both 

In 1775 Josiah Tucker, the well-known Dean of 
Gloucester, added his voice in favour of such a union. 



"For example, the two great islands of Britain and 
Ireland, which are only separated by a narrow sea, 
ought not to be separated at all by different govern- 
ments, laws, or Parliaments. No good reason upon 
earth can be given for such a separation. And it has 
long been the ardent wish of every true patriot in 
both nations to see them united." 

We now come to the clarum et venerabile nomen of 
Adam Smith. " By a union with Great Britain Ireland 
would gain, besides the freedom of trade, other ad- 
vantages much more important, and which would much 
more than compensate any increase of taxes that might 
accompany that union. By the union with England 
the middling and inferior ranks of people in Scotland 
gained a complete deliverance from the power of an 
aristocracy which had always before oppressed them. 
By an union with Great Britain the greater part of the 
people of all ranks in Ireland would gain a complete 
deliverance from a much more oppressive aristocracy. 
An aristocracy not founded, as that of Scotland, in the 
natural and respectable distinctions of birth and fortune, 
but in the most odious of all distinctions, those of 
religious and political prejudices — distinctions which, 
more than any other, animate both the insolence of 
the oppressors and the hatred and indignation of the 
oppressed, and which commonly render the inhabitants 
of the same country more hostile to one another than 
those of different countries ever are. Without an 
union with Great Britain the inhabitants of Ireland 
are not likely for many ages to consider themselves 
as one people." 


In 1785, three years after the independence of Ireland 
had been declared, Dean Tucker again recurs to the 
consideration of this matter. " A real union and in- 
corporation with Ireland is certainly a most desirable 
thing ; but, according to the present situation of affairs, 
and men's tempers and dispositions, this is an event 
more to be wished for than to be expected. Never- 
theless, when many of those obstacles, which now appear 
so formidable, shall be smoothed by the lenient hand 
of time, and when a mutual intercourse between 
England and Ireland shall confer mutual benefits on 
each other, it will then be found that the only thing 
remaining towards completing the commercial and 
political system, and towards giving strength and 
security, consistence and stability, to the whole, will 
be to unite under one legislature, to form one 
Parliament, and to become one people." 

It is the province of the speculative inquirer to work 
out and suggest the reforms which the changing life of 
a nation requires. It is the province of the statesman 
to give effect to those reforms in legislation. And it 
becomes his immediate duty to do so, when his reason 
and conscience declare that they are necessary to the 
prosperity of the people whom he governs, and that 
the fulness of time has come for carrying them into 
operation. Was it possible for an English minister 
to shut his ears to the unanimous voice of so many 
distinguished thinkers on the subject of a union, for 
there was not a single opinion against it ? But Pitt, 
in desiring a union, was not influenced merely by 
his own opinion, or by those of others. He had the 



experience of the Empire to guide him ; and, in 
addition, the interposition of Great Britain was 
rendered absolutely necessary by the necessities of 
Ireland in 1799. 

The existence of two independent Parliaments in 
the Empire had already been proved, by the case of 
Scotland, to be a source of extreme danger to the 
State. We shall hereafter consider the symptoms 
of separation shown by the Irish Parliament within a 
few years of the Declaration of Independence in 1782, 
but in this place we are speaking of Scotland. In the 
beginning of the reign of Anne a quarrel, arising 
principally from trade jealousy, broke out between 
England and Scotland. A Scotch company had been 
established for forming a settlement on the Spanish 
Main, avowedly to enable tly* northern kingdom to 
share the wealth and rival the trade of England. The 
settlement miscarried after having nearly caused a war 
between England and Spain, and this attempt and its 
failure produced great irritation and many controversies 
betweeu the sister countries. The next step was the 
passing of the Act of Security by the Scotch Parliament. 
This Act declared that until provision was made for 
settling the rights and liberties of the Scotch nation, 
independently of English interests, the successor to the 
Scotch crown should not be the same person that was 
possessed of the crown of England. This Act was 
succeeded by an order for arming and training the 
subjects of Scotland. The Act of Security was looked 
upon in England as a declaration of war. The Parlia- 




ment of England addressed the Queen to give orders 
for fortifying the towns on the northern frontier, for 
arming the militia of the northern counties, and for 
stationing regular forces in that part of the kingdom. 
At the same time an English Act was passed declaring 
the natives of Scotland aliens, unless that country 
should settle the crown on the House of Hanover by 
the 24th of December in the next year. Twenty-four 
men-of-war were fitted out, and orders were given them 
to seize Scotch ships trading with France under an Act 
which the Scots had lately passed allowing a trade with 
that country, then at war with England. Defoe tells 
us it was a case of " union or war ; the animosities on 
both sides being raised to such a pitch that they could 
no longer have remained in the usual medium of 
peace." 1 Fortunately both kingdoms saw that two 
independent Parliaments were incompatible with their 
common safety, and the great measure of a Union 
was at last, after so many unsuccessful attempts, 

The intervention of Great Britain was imperatively 
called for by the state of Ireland. The rebellion of 1798 
was essentially a different movement in the North and 
South. In the North, where the minds of men had 
been excited by the French Kevolution, and a change 
in the system or form of government was desired, it was 
little more than a flash in the pan, which a few regi- 
ments would have extinguished. 2 But in the South, the 

1 Hist, of the Union, &c. 83. 

2 " The mere republicans submitted at once in the North. The 
papist fanatics are hardly to be subdued at all. They call the body 



rebellion assumed the mixed complexion of a religious 
war and a jacquerie. There the peasantry, without 
leaders and without ammunition, 1 rushed into the 
bloody contest, during which all the worst passions of 
the two communities, the Protestants and the Catholics, 
were let loose. Their internecine quarrel was accom- 
panied by the horrors which almost invariably attend 
outbursts of religious rancour. The outrages and 
atrocities of the Irish yeomanry and the Fencibles 2 
were fully equalled by the barbarities of the peasantry. 
Both parties were infuriated against each other, and 
every sense of mercy or humanity was deadened or 
forgotten. The conflict was fast becoming a war of 
extermination, 3 when Great Britain intervened and 

in the mountains the Irish and Catholic army." — Secretary Cooke 
to Wickham, Corn. Corr. ii. 363. "The actual movements of the 
conspiracy appeared almost exclusively in Ulster, where no religious 
motive was so much as pretended, and where the Eoman Catholics, 
in particular, seemed disposed to distinguish themselves by keeping 
aloof from combination." — Alexander Knox, Political Circumstances 
of Ireland. 

1 Plowden, vol. ii. pt. ii. 687. 

2 The admirable conduct of the British regulars in this rebellion 
should never be forgotten. " The respect and veneration with 
which I heard the names of Hunter, Skeret, and Stewart .... 
pronounced, and the high encomiums passed on the Scotch and 
English regiments, under whose protection the misguided partisans 
of rebellion were enabled to return in safety to their homes, con- 
vinces me that the salvation of the country was as much owing to 
the forbearance, humanity, and prudence of the regular troops as to 
their discipline and bravery. The moment the militia, yeomanry, 
and Orangemen were separated from the army, confidence was 
restored." — Wakefield's Ireland, ii. 372. 

3 " The rebellion in 1798 would have been a war of extermination 
if it had not been for the strong and merciful interposition of Great 

C 2 



restored some degree of order. But the seeds of 
lasting hatred had been planted, for blood always 
leaves behind it the germs of future dissension, and, if 
the Union had not taken place, there would have been 
on Irish soil two nations bent on mutual destruction. 

The three principal objects which Pitt had in view 
in pressing forward the Union were : to restore peace 
and put an end to the dissensions which distracted 
Ireland ; to admit the Catholics into the constitution 
by granting emancipation ; and to consolidate the 
power and resources of the Empire by uniting all its 
subjects into one people, and by removing the causes 
of disaffection and alienation. 1 

Britain." — Lord Clare in the House of Lords, February ioth, 1800. 
" The choice of Father Roche (as a general of the rebels) shows how- 
much the warfare had now altered its complexion and began to 
assume the form of a fanatic and religious crusade." — Plowden, 
vol. ii. pt. ii. 735. " In general we succeeded (in pleading with the 
rebels for the Protestants) for the first fortnight. After that the 
evil sanguinary spirit broke loose, and no protection availed .... 
in vain did we urge humanity, charity, religion, mercy." — Dr. Caul- 
field, Catholic Bishop of Ferns, quoted, Plowden, ib. p. 749. " In 
the South, where nearly the whole population is Roman Catholic, the 
contest assumed the appearance of a religious war rather than that 
of a rebellion." — Wakefield, ii. 365. 

1 See his speech on the Union, January 31st, 1799. 


State of the representation of Ireland between 1793 anc ^ 1800. — • 
Compared with that of England. — With that of Scotland. 

To the English or Scotch inquirer Irish politics have 
always presented a difficult problem. The key to the 
problem is, that there are in Ireland, included under the 
generic term of Irish, two separate nations differing in 
origin, in religion, and in traditions : the Protestants 
and the Catholics. The Protestants are, for the most 
part, descendants of English or Scotch settlers ; the 
Catholics are Celtic by blood or by traditions. 

The Protestants have ever been attached to the 
British connection. For a short interval the Presby- 
terians of the North coquetted with republican 
sentiments and the United Irishmen. But the religious 
complexion which the rebellion assumed in the South, 
and particularly in Wexford, converted them to a man. 
They became almost universally Orangemen. 1 In June, 
1 799, Lord Castlereagh wrote to the Duke of Portland : 
" The province of Ulster comprises at this moment a 
numerous body of determined loyalists. The yeomanry 
equals in number, and far exceeds in effectiveness, that 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 326. 



of the other three provinces. They have of late been 
considerably augmented, and I am justified by the 
opinion of the officers commanding in that district in 
stating to your Grace that Ulster can be secured by its 
own yeomanry, and even furnish a considerable body of 
infantry well adapted to serve as light troops to act with 
the regular army against the common enemy." 

At the time of the Union the population of Ireland 
was between four and five millions. Of these 800,000 
were Protestants, the rest were Catholics. It must 
however be remembered that the estimates of the 
population before the institution of the census are no- 
thing more than rough guesses. The Hearth money 
collectors gave it at 2,845,932 in the year 1785. 
Gervase Bushe computed it at 4,040,000 in 1788, an 
enormous increase of 1,200,000 in three years wholly 
unaccounted for. In 1791, the Hearth money collectors 
made it 4,206,612. Thomas Newenham estimated it at 
5>359;456 in 1805. Grattan in 1782 stated it was 
2,600,000 ; afterwards he raised his estimate to 4,000,000. 
Mr. Foster in 1799 was of opinion that it was four 
and a half millions, and in the same year Plunket 
thought it was between four and five millions. 

The House of Lords was entirely Protestant, no 
Catholic sitting in it. The Irish peerage then consisted 
of about 210 members, more than forty of whom were 
in no way connected with Ireland. 1 

The House of Commons consisted of 300 members, 
and was also entirely Protestant. Sixty-four members 
were returned by the counties; 236 were returned by 

1 Portland to Lord Cornwallis. — Com. Corr. iii. 214. 



1 1 8 cities, towns, and boroughs, including the Univer- 
sity of Dublin. Each constituency was represented by 
two members. 

Though the Catholics of Ireland were not capable 
of sitting in Parliament, they yet enjoyed a very con- 
siderable amount of political power. The Irish electorate 
was out of all proportion to the population and resources 
of the kingdom when compared with either England or 
Scotland. Previous to 1793 the franchise was limited 
to Protestants, and the qualification for the county 
vote was the same as in England, a clear forty shillings 
freehold. Before that year the number of such voters 
was about 50,000, while in the cities, towns or boroughs 
the number of electors was about 2 0,000. 1 The act of 
1793 admitted Catholic forty shilling freeholders, to 
the vote, and effected what was little short of a revo- 
lution in the electorate, at once tripling its -number. 
This extraordinary change was brought about in the 
following manner. It had lono- been the habit in Ireland 
to let the land of the country on leases for lives. 2 The 
passion for acquiring political influence had induced 
landlords to create freehold tenures for the purpose of 
multiplying votes on their properties. As there was no 
expectation at that time of Catholics being admitted to 
the vote, this custom of granting freehold tenures was 
extended to them, after the penal laws had been 

1 See State of the Representation submitted to the Volunteer 
Convention, Dublin, 1784. 

2 "Almost all the lands of the country are let for lives, so that 
almost every peasant has a freehold tenure." — Sir L. Parsons, Pari. 
Deb. xiii. 213. 




relaxed, and they were enabled to hold such estates. 1 
The consequence was that nearly every peasant had a 
freehold tenure. Then came the Act of 1793, and at 
one blow a clear Catholic majority was established in the 
counties, and this at a time, when that body had 
not in their possession one-fiftieth part of the real, 
nor one-twentieth part of the personal property of 
the nation. 2 

A few instances of the changes made in the counties 
will show us the prodigious alteration effected by the 
Act. Before 1793 there were in Downshire 6,000 
voters ; shortly after there were 30,000. Tyrone 
county, before the Act, had 3,000 voters ; shortly 
after it, 20,000. Cork county, before the Act, had 
3,000 freeholders entitled to vote ; after it, 20,000. 
The freeholders in County Galway were, before the 
Act, 700 ; shortly after it, 4,000. And Donegal had, 
before the Act, 3,000; and after it, 9,ooo. 3 In 1809, 
ten Irish counties, not including the wealthiest, Dublin, 
had upwards of 112,000 registered county voters. 4 
At the time of the Union, the Irish county 

1 " Mr. Herbert says that a lease of lives was made to give the 
privileges of a freehold without any expectation of Catholics ever 
being admitted to vote. The law was established at a time when 
they were not permitted to take snch leases, and for the purpose of 
giving the Protestants a decided majority over them. Afterwards 
the Catholics were allowed to possess freehold leases, and thus they 
obtained elective franchise." — Wakefield, ii. 611. 

2 Pari. Deb. xiii. 215. 

3 See and compare State of Irish Representation and Wakefield's 
Ireland, ii. 300-310. 

4 Wakefield's Ireland, ii. 300-310. 



electorate must have numbered 200,000. if not 
more. 1 

In the larger constituencies of the cities and towns, 
which were more or less open, the influence of the 
Catholics had before 1S00 become great. We can see 
this, by comparing the number of voters in these towns 
before 1793 with the number as given in the Parlia- 
mentary return in 1S29. 2 It must be remembered that 
there was no change in the electoral laws between 1793 
and 1S29, and any increase in the population of the 
towns will not account for the much greater increase in 
the voters. Before 1793 the number of electors in Cork 
was 1,200; in 1S29, 2,750. In Downpa trick, before 
1793, the number was 250; in 1829, 2,180; 
In Newry before 1793. between 600 and 700; in 
1S29, 2,472. In Drogheda before 1793, 500; in 1S29 
1,143. 1 11 Dungarvau before 1793, 120; in 1829, 
1 708. In Galway before 1 793, between 600 and 700 ; 
in 1829, 2.300. In Limerick, at the same times, 1,500 
and 3,200. 

The case of Newry will illustrate the change effected 
by the Act of 1793 in the Catholic influence in the 

1 In the debates on this Act, Sir Lawrence Parsons foretold this 
enormous increase. " In some counties where there are but 2,000 
electors now, you will, if this bill passes, have 10,000 ; in others 
20,000, in others 30,000, and I am well informed, in the county of 
Cork alone you will have 50,000; that is, half what I have stated 
the whole elective body to be of all the counties in England." — 
Pari. Deb. xiii. 213. 

2 See and compare the numbers as given in the State of the Repre 
wentaiton laid before the Convention in 17S4, and the Parliamentary 
returns, quoted in Lynch's Law of Election, p. 74. 


open towns. Before the Act, this town had between 
six and seven hundred voters, all Protestants. In 1 799 
the Catholics were able to turn the election. In that 
year Mr. Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer, stood 
for the town, and was opposed by Mr. Ball, a warm 
anti-Unionist. The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin 
requested Dr. Lennan, the Catholic Bishop of Dromore, 
to use his influence in favour of the Unionist candidate. 
We have the answer of the Bishop announcing the 
result. . " Mr. Ball," he writes to the Archbishop, " with 
his partisans, after canvassing the town for eight days, 
declined the poll and surrendered yesterday. The 
Catholics stuck together like the Macedonian phalanx, 
and with ease were able to turn the scale in favour of 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is very sensible of 
the efficacy of your interference and their steadiness." 1 

But in the smaller or private boroughs the Catholics 
had as yet no influence. Though the Act of 1793 
had opened corporations to them, sufficient time had 
not elapsed to enable them to make their way into 
these citadels of Protestantism. Whatever we may 
think of the Protestant constitution and establishment 
then existing in Ireland, we must acknowledge that the 
private or rotten boroughs were their only protection. 

The political position of the Irish Catholics, between 
1793 and the Union, then, was this. They could 
command the greater number of the county elections 
throughout the island ; they were rapidly becoming the 
majority in the open cities and towns, but they were 
excluded, not by law, but by custom, from the private 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 168. 



boroughs. If the attention of this body had not been 
distracted from purely political aims by the conspiracy 
of the United Irishmen and the disturbances of 179S, 
and if the private or rotten boroughs had not remained 
Protestant, the Catholics would have had control of all 
Irish matters by the year 1S00. 

Both the social and political situation of the 
Irish Catholics have been misrepresented, and the re- 
strictions under which they laboured have been greatly 
exaggerated. It may be useful to compare the position 
of a Catholic in Ireland after 1793 with that of his 
co-relisrionist in England or Scotland. In those 
countries Catholics were excluded from office and the 
franchise. In Ireland they were admissible to all 
civil and military places of trust under the Crown, with 
the exception of about thirty of the highest executive 
offices of the State. 1 The Test and Corporation Acts 
had also been repealed in their favour in Ireland, while 
in England and Scotland these instruments of exclusion 
were retained for many years subsequently to 1S00. 
In England, a Catholic was, as in Ireland, excluded from 
Parliament, but in the former country he could not take 
a degree at one of the universities, or become a member 
of a corporation, nor could he rise in the Army or Xavy 
above the rank of Lieutenant. In Ireland every law 
pressing on the Catholic had been relaxed, 2 and he 

1 33 Geo. 1H. Irish c. 21, g 7, 9. 

1 The provision in respect to the possession of arms by the 
Catholics can hardly be termed an exception, for every Catholic en- 
titled to a freehold of 10/. per annum, or to personal property of 
the value of 300 A, could obtain a license on payment of 6d. 



was invested with all the privileges possessed by 
Protestants, except that he could not sit in Parliament, 
or enjoy a few great offices without taking the same 
oaths of qualification as were taken by Protestants. In 
no country in the world where there was an established 
religion did the nonconforming subject enjoy a situation 
comparable to that of the Irish Catholic. Even the 
condition of the Protestant Dissenters in England was 
inferior to his. There, a Presbyterian, member of a 
church established in another part of the island, to 
qualify himself for the humblest office, was obliged to 
communicate in the form of a religion to which he did 
not belong. And the other Dissenters, such as Quakers 
and Unitarians, were in a situation far inferior to that 
of the Irish Catholic. The franchise, too, was only 
enjoyed by Protestant Dissenters in England in a 
qualified manner, for they were debarred from exercising 
it in thirty corporations and towns which returned 
members to Parliament, 1 

Of the 1x8 Irish cities, towns, and boroughs which 
existed before the Union, some were more or less 
open, that is free from external influence or patronage. 
The following had large constituencies : Dublin, 
between 4,000 and 5,000 electors ; Cork, about 
2,000; Waterford, 1,000; Limerick, about 2,000; 
Londonderry, between 600 and 700 ; Carrickfergus, 
900; Drogheda, about 500; Newry about 1,500; 

Catholics, too, were openly enrolled among the Volunteers, and were 
possessed of arms without license." — Pari. Deb. xiii. 107. 
1 Petition of the Friends of the People, 1793. 



Youghal, 200 ; Antrim, 250 ; Downpatiick, about 1,000 ; 
and Fethard in Tipperary 900. 1 

The first eight of these, Dublin, Cork, Waterford, 
Limerick, Londonderry, Carrickfergus, Drogheda, and 
Newry were quite open, as was also the University 
of Dublin.' 2 

Of the towns which were partially open, Antrim was 
comparatively free though influenced by Lord Massareene ; 
Lisburn was in the same position to Lord Hertford. 
Of Mallow the principal patrons were the Jephson 
family. Youghal, as most of its freeholders resided at 
a distance of sixty miles, was entirely in the hands of 
Lord Shannon. Wexford by " manoeuvring of the 
Corporation " had come under the influence of a single 
individual. In Dowupatrick and Kinsale Lord de 
Clifford was able to return the four members. Dundalk 
had been for some years struggling for freedom with the 
Clanbrassil family. It appears that the struggle went 
against the town, for though it was described in 1784 as 
having 700 electors, we find in the parliamentary return 

1 The following are the numbers of electors in these towns in 
1784 and 1829 : — 

1784 1829 1784 1829 

Dublin 4,000 5,000 , Droglieda 500 M43 

Cork 1,200 2,750 Newry, between 600 & 700 2,472 

Waterford 1,000 1,286 ! Galway 600 2,300 

Limerick "many hundreds" ... 3,200 ' Mallow 550 

Londonderry ... 700 650 Downpatiick ... 250 2,180 

Carrickfergus ... 900 860 , Youghal 200 242 

2 Of this constituency the Report on the representation says, 
"electors 70 scholars and 22 fellows, in all 92, who cannot be cor- 
rupted even by the present Provost," The Provost was Hely 
Hutchinson, against whom Duigenan wrote his Pranceriana and 
Lacrymce Academicce. 


of 1829 that there were in the town only thirty- two 
electors ; Athlone and Fethard acknowledged patrons. 

In the rest of the boroughs the right of election was 
generally limited to the Corporation, a body usually of 
thirteen persons. Even in the towns which, from their 
importance, though not open, were retained to send 
members to the Imperial Parliament, this was the case, 
and their condition was not changed till the Municipal 
Eeform Act in 1840, Thus in Belfast, Armagh, Bandon, 
Carlow, Sligo, Ennis, and Tralee respectively the number 
of electors was thirteen, in Dungannon twelve, and in 
Ennis killen and Portarlington fifteen. 

Four boroughs were in an exceptional position. Three 
of them had become close though owned by no one, and 
the fourth was a thoroughly venal one. St. Canice, or 
Irishtown, a part of Kilkenny city, had succumbed to 
the influence of the Bishop of Ossory, as had Old 
Leighlin to that of the Bishop of Ferns. Clogher had 
long been under the patronage of the Bishop, but it re- 
gained its independence on the very eve of the Union, 
when the two nominees of the Bishop were unseated. 1 
Swords, with its 160 electors, was free from external 
influence, but sold itself on every opportunity. 

With the exception of these four boroughs, and also 
with the exception of the cities and towns wholly or 
partially open, the Irish boroughs had been originally, 
or had become, private property. Their history is as 
follows : — 

The great majority of Irish boroughs had always 
been mere villages. In the last Parliament of Elizabeth, 

1 Journals House of Commons, March 29th, 1800. 



when writs were issued to thirty-six places only, many 
of these places which sent representatives were insigni- 
ficant. They were chosen because they were walled 
towns, or occupied positions favourable for defence or 
commerce. In the reign of this Queen seventeen 
counties were added to the existing ones, and in the 
following reign all Ireland became shire ground. 
James I. created forty-six new boroughs ; 2 and 
Charles L, Charles II., James II., and Anne afterwards 
increased the number by thirty-six. So that more than 
two-thirds of the boroughs were created by the Stuarts. 
James I. not only created new boroughs, but recalled 
the charters of some of the old towns and granted new 
ones. In all his fifty-three charters he prescribed the 
number of citizens who were to have a vote, and 
limited that number within the narrowest bounds. 
He separated the small class incorporated by the grant 
as much as possible from the inhabitants at large, and 
generally named the individuals who were to be the 
first mayor, sheriffs, and burgesses. Hence arose a 
system most favourable to direct nomination, self- 
election, and thorough exclusiveness. 3 Grattan tells 
us that most of the boroughs erected by James I. were 

1 In the reign of Henry VIII. the English Pale comprised four 
counties only. 

2 When the King was remonstrated with for making so many he 
replied : " What is it to you whether I make many or few boroughs 1 
My Council may consider the fitness if I require it. But what if I 
had created 40 noblemen and 400 boroughs 1 The more the merrier, 
the fewer the better cheer." — Cur. Hibcr. i. 308. 

3 Gale, Ancient Corporation System. Lynch, Law of Election in 
Ancient Cities, d'c, of Ireland. 



intended to be private property, that this appears from 
the grants themselves, and that those created by 
Charles II. were granted with a view to personal 
favour. 1 

With respect to those boroughs which were not 
originally granted to individuals as private property, 
it is easy to understand how they became the possessions 
of patrons. The number of electors was so small that 
the nomination of a member came to be considered as an 
exclusive and valuable right widen it was desirable to 
limit to as few as possible. Accordingly the appoint- 
ment of new burgesses was purposely neglected, and 
their succession was allowed to lapse. By death, 
removal of families from the town, or decay of the 
place, the number of electors was still further reduced. 
In 1784 there were only three resident electors in the 
five boroughs of the county of Donegal, one, a publican 
in LifTord, one in the town of Donegal, and one in 
Ballyshannon, none in Killybegs or St. Johnstown. 
There were no resident electors in Newtownlimavady, 
Castlebar, Clonmines, Old Leighlin, Portarlington, 
Carrick, Tulsk, Longford, orFethard. 2 In Newtownards, 
Jamestown, Enniscorthy, Coleraine, Monaghan, and 
Mullingar only one in each. In Duleek there w r as not 
one resident in the town or even in the county. The 
majority of the electors of Kinsale resided in another 
province, Ulster. Of the 150 freemen of Dingle only 
two resided in the town and not more than ten in the 
county. In many other boroughs only two, three, or 

1 Speech on reform. — Pari. Deb. xiii. 160. 

2 There were two Fethards, one in Wexford and one in Tipperary. 



five electors were resident. Harristown and Bannow 
were totally uninhabited. Jamestown, from a town, had 
become " a wretched depopulated village," and Carysfort 
had " gone entirely to ruin and decay, its electors all 
non-resident." 1 Under such circumstances these boroughs 
naturally gravitated into the power of the lord of the 
soil or the neighbouring proprietor, and were universally 
recognised as his private property, to be disposed of as 
lie thought fit. To the credit of these acquirers it must 
be said that they rarely or never allowed a member 
who differed from them in political opinions to sit in 
one of their seats. At the time of the Union, the 
Ponsonbys exercised influence, direct or indirect, over 
twenty-two seats ; Lord Downshire, and the Beresfords, 
respectively, over nearly as many. Lord Longueville 
claimed Cork, Mallow, and six other seats ; Lords Ely 
and Shannon had six ; Lords Granard, Belmore, .Clifden, 
and Abercorn four each. The Duke of Devonshire, Mr. 
Tighe, and Mr. Bruen had also each four. 2 

After their acquisition boroughs were looked upon as 
strictly private property, and treated as such. For 
many years before 1800 they had been bought and sold, 
bequeathed by will, or disposed of in family and 
marriage settlements. Their value was very great, 
though not comparable to that of the English pocket- 
boroughs. 3 They were considered to be advancements 

1 JRejjort on the Rejrresentation, submitted to the Volunteer 
Convention, Dublin, 1784. 

2 Corn. Corr., iii. 324. 

3 Gatton, in Surrey, was sold in 1774 for £75,000. May, Const 
Hist, i. 305. 




for younger sons, and were readily saleable, particularly 
to aspiring barristers. About the year 1780 Belturbet 
was sold for £" 11,000. But their value was raised 
enormously by the Octennial Act. The chances of profit 
to a borough proprietor, over the sum given for a seat, 
were the dissolution of Parliament, and the death or 
removal by promotion of the sitting member. It is 
evident that an Act which limited the duration of 
Parliament, and thereby increased the number of 
vacancies, must have raised the pecuniary value of 
the boroughs. The distinction between the value of a 
borough and that of a seat must be kept in mind ; 
between the perpetual right of nomination and a single 
sitting. The purchase of a borough, or half a borough, 
was an investment, the sale of a seat its produce. The 
value of a seat, though it also had risen with the 
value of the borough, 1 depended largely on the crisis, 
or the debate of a great question which interested the 
public. Grattan gave ^2,000 for a seat in 1784 for a 
friend of his patron, Lord Charlemont. 2 In 1800 he 
again gave ,£2,400 for his seat at Wicklow. 3 In the 
same year Mr. Gould paid £"4,000 for his seat at 
Kilbeggan, 4 and Lord Cornwallis states that at this time 
the Opposition offered £"5,000 ready money for a vote. 5 
We must not hastily suppose that our forefathers 
were shocked at this system of representation. On the 

1 " I have heard that seats in this House, forty years ago, were 
obtained for 600I. I have heard they now cost 3,000/." — Grattan, 
1793 ; Pari. Deb., xiii. 162. 

2 Grattan' s Life, iii. 191. s Corn. Corr., iii. 161. 
4 lb. iii. 182. 5 lb. iii. 184. 


contrary the great majority of them thought it an 
excellent one, and we shall shortly see that a similar 
system prevailed in England and Scotland. Parlia- 
mentary reform was never popular in Ireland. Flood's 
attempt brought about the fall of the Volunteers, who 
were the only large body that promoted it. His motion 
in 17S3 to bring in a Reform Bill was unsupported by 
petitions from the people, 1 and was rejected by 150 
votes to 77. When Grattan renewed the attempt in 
1793, the majorities against it were overwhelming, 
J 53 T0 7*j mm! 137 to 48, the first against the intro- 
duction of Grattan's resolution, the second against a 
subsequent motion of Mr. Forbes. 2 Again in 1794, a 
Bill for reform was unsupported 3 by petitions, and was 
thrown out by 142 votes to 44. And finally, when 
Mr. W. B. Ponsonby brought forward Grattan's plan for 
reform in 1797 he could only muster 30 votes- against 


In truth, it is difficult to see how any one at that 
time could think that reform of the parliamentary 
svstem was feasible in Ireland. Even if the political 
situation of the two parties in the kingdom had allowed 
it, there was no wealthy middle-class in the country 
who felt that they did not enjoy the influence in 
legislation which their position and intelligence fairly 
entitled them to claim. There were no captains of 
national industries, no great manufacturers, no com- 
mercial magnates, as in England, who were indignant at 
their exclusion from political power, and were ready to 

1 Grattan s Life, iii. 149. 2 Pari Deb. xiii. 188, 245. 

3 Pari, Deb. xiv. 104. 4 lb., xvii. 570. 

D 2 



challenge the monopoly of legislation possessed by the 
landholders. Nor was there any strong, moral indig- 
nation at the parliamentary system, hardly a mere 
sentimental disapproval of its abuses. We find it 
difficult to repress a smile when we read that Grattan, 
who sat for a pocket -borough by the favour of a patron, 
and who bought a seat in 1784, and again in 1800, was 
the strenuous asserter of parliamentary reform. And 
that George Ponsonby, who, with his brother William, 
represented in the House of Commons a family which 
influenced twenty-two seats, and was himself the pro- 
prietor of a rotten borough, for which he received 
;£ 1 5,000 compensation at the Union, was anxious to 
purify the legislature. The public would not believe 
that men who trafficked in boroughs to suit their own 
convenience were sincere, or that those who derived 
a large part of their importance from anomalies and 
abuses of the Parliamentary system were actuated 
by conscientious motives when they demanded its 

But there was one circumstance which, above all 
others, prevented parliamentary reform in Ireland, and 
that was the alarm of the Protestant legislature, and 
of the Protestant community. They saw with dis- 
quietude the rapid advances which the Catholics had 
made within a few years. They were aware that the 
political power of the country was being transferred to 
that body — that the county elections were at the 
disposal of that community — that its members were 
becoming possessed of power in the larger towns and 
constituencies ; and that the private pocket-boroughs 



were the only remaining defences of their constitution 
and religious establishment. 1 Grattan, of whose gifts 
political foresight was not one, had made up his mind 
that the Catholics were not to be feared. The state 
of religious thought on the Continent, and the straits 
to which the victories of the French Eepublicans had 
reduced the Papal Court and Sovereign, led him to 
believe that the Catholic religion had lost its social and 
political influence. 2 He foresaw no danger in the 
admission of Catholics to Parliament, or in their over- 
whelming numbers. But this feeling was by no means 
shared by the Protestant community at large. That 
body feared that a Catholic Parliament would attack the 
existing constitution of Church and State, if not the 
Act of Settlement, which was the root of every title 
in Ireland, and that it might endanger their only 
safety, the connection with Great Britain. The 
result of these fears was, that they were resolved 
to maintain the existing order of things as long 
as it was possible to do so, and determined 
to resist all parliamentary reform which would 
destroy the safeguards of their constitution and 

1 " Y\"e may live to see boroughs, now disgraced with the epithet 
rotten, the only defence of the Protestants of Ireland." — Right Hon. 
Geo. Ogle, Pari. Deb. xiii. 248. 

2 " The indulgence we wish to give to Catholics can never be 
injurious to the Protestant religion. That religion is the religion of 
the State, and will become the religion of Catholics if severity does 
not prevent them." " What Luther did for us, philosophy has done 
in some degree for the Roman Catholics, and that religion has 
undergone a silent reformation." — Both quoted by Lecky, iv. 557. 


With all its imperfections the Irish parliamentary 
system represented fairly the principal interests of the 
country, the land, the church, law, and commerce. 
Perhaps the land, and certainly the church, was over 
represented, though it must be remembered that there 
was little trade or commerce in Ireland. Lawyers were 
always numerous and influential in the Irish Parliament, 
and there were at least six Dublin bankers in the last 
legislature. The popular voice had a real, if not a 
controlling influence within its walls. 1 The Irish 
Houses were never able to resist the persistent wishes 
of the electoral body, 2 as was conclusively shown in 
the earlier stages of the Octennial Bill, and on several 
other occasions. Besides, the Irish were well aware 
that their own system was in some respects better 
than that of England, and that it was absolute 
perfection when compared with that of Scotland. It 
was better than the English system in two respects. 
The first was, that in Ireland the Catholics were 
admitted to the franchise, whereas they were excluded 
in England. The second was, a much larger proportion 
of the people participated in the privilege in Ireland. 
The population of England was, about the time of the 
Union, upwards of ten millions, that of Ireland, at the 
most, five millions. There was no comparison between 
the wealth and resources of the two kingdoms. Yet, 
the electorate was nearly as numerous in Ireland as in 
England, and if we preserve the proportion of the 
populations, we shall find that Ireland had about 

Lecky, iv. 370. 



twice the number of electors which England had 


in 1800 and for thirty years after that date. 

We cannot properly judge of the system of Irish 
representation which prevailed from 1793 to 1800 
without comparing it w T ith the contemporaneous arrange- 
ments which existed in England and Scotland. We 
shall therefore shortly consider the systems of repre- 
sentation in those countries. 

" A stranger/' said Lord John Russell in 1831, in 
his speech introducing the Reform Bill, " would be very 
much astonished if he were taken to a ruined mound 
and told that that mound sent two representatives to 
Parliament — if he were taken to a stone w T all and told 
that three niches in it sent two representatives to 
Parliament — if he were taken to a park where no 
houses w T ere to be seen, and told that that park sent 
two representatives to Parliament. But if . he were 
told all this and w T ere astonished at hearing it, he 
would be still more astonished if he were to see large 
and opulent towns, full of enterprise, and industry, and 
intelligence, containing vast magazines of every species 
of manufacture, and were then told that these towns 
sent no representatives to Parliament. Such a person 
would be still more astonished if he were taken 
to Liverpool, wdiere there is a large constituency, 
and told 4 here you will have a fair specimen of a 
popular election.' He would see bribery employed 
to the greatest extent, and in the most unblush- 
ing manner ; he would see every voter receiving 
a number of guineas in a box as the price of his 


In England a much smaller proportion of the popu- 
lation was represented than in Ireland. The majority in 
the House of Commons was, in 1793, said to be elected 
by less than fifteen thousand voters. 1 This statement 
was not exaggerated, for the Duke of Eichmond declared 
in 1780 that not more than six thousand individuals 
returned a clear majority of the Commons. 2 About the 
time of the Union there were in Ireland two hundred 
thousand electors in the counties, beside those in the cities, 
towns, and boroughs, and more than a thirtieth part of 
the people was represented in Parliament. 

No Catholic could vote in England, and by the opera- 
tion of the Test laws even Protestant Dissenters were 
deprived of the franchise in thirty boroughs. Catholics 
and Dissenters enjoyed the privilege of the vote in 

Seventy English members were returned from thirty- 
five places where the elections were mere matters of form. 
Ninety were returned from forty-six places, in none of 
which the electors numbered more than fifty. Thirty- 
seven from places where the voters did not exceed 
a hundred, and fifty-two members were returned 
from places where the electors did not exceed two 
hundred. 3 

Cornwall and Wiltshire sent more borough members 
than Yorkshire, Lancashire, Warwickshire, Middlesex, 

1 Petition of the Friends of the People, presented by Mr., after- 
wards Lord Grey in 1793. This Society embraced men eminent in 
politics and literature, and twenty-eight members of Parliament, 
among whom were Mr. Grey and Mr. Erskine. May, Const. Hist. 
i. 334. 2 lb. i. 299. 

' 6 Petition of the Friends of the People. 



Worcestershire and Somersetshire united. The borough 
members of Cornwall alone outnumbered those of York- 
shire, Rutland and Middlesex. This one county returned 
forty-four members, while the whole of Scotland had but 
forty-five representatives. 1 

If we turn to the question of patronage we shall find 
matters in a similar state to that which prevailed in 
Ireland. Eighty-four individuals, by their own imme- 
diate authority, returned one hundred and fifty-seven 
members. In addition to these a hundred and fifty 
members were returned at the recommendation of 
seventy influential persons. So that a hundred and 
fifty-four patrons returned a decided majority of the 
English members. 2 This was in 1793, in 18 16 Oldfield 
tells us that three hundred and fifty-five members were 
returned by peers and influential commoners in England 
and Wales. 3 

The interference of peers in elections was as general 
in England as in Ireland. A hundred and fifty members 
owed their election entirely to this interference. Forty 
peers had acquired burgage tenures in many of the small 
boroughs, and were enabled by their own authority to 
return eighty-one members. The Duke of Norfolk was 
represented by eleven members, Lord Lonsdale by nine, 
Lord Darlington by seven, the Duke of Rutland, the 

1 Petition of the Friends of the People. 

2 The number of representatives from England and Wales was 
then 513, from Scotland 45. Cornwall sent 44 members. Oldfield, 
vi. 133. Petition of the Friends, &c. 

8 Total number of members returned by 87 peers in England 
and Wales, 218 ; by 90 commoners, 137. Representative Hist., vi. 293. 


Marquis of Buckingham, and Lord Carrington by six 
each. 1 

If we add to all this that there were ten places in 
England the members of which, sixteen in number, were 
returned by the patronage of Government, we shall have 
an idea of the system of representation which prevailed 
in England at the time of the Irish Union, and for 
thirty years later. 2 

The representation of Scotland was defective and 
anomalous in the highest degree. In the counties the 
great mass of the landholders and householders was 
excluded from all participation in the choice of members. 
The vote was severed from the land, and attached to a 
fictitious creation of the law known by the name of the 
" Superiority." So that the representatives of the landed 
interest might be elected by those who had no real or 
beneficial interest in the soil, and who were called " out- 
voters." 3 These " Superiorities " were openly bought and 
sold in the market, and were enjoyed independently of 
property or even of residence. 4 

Even so late as 1831 the total number of county 
electors in Scotland did not exceed two thousand five 
hundred. 5 The county of Argyll, with a population of 
a hundred thousand, had but a hundred and fifteen 
electors, of whom eighty- four had no land in the county. 
Caithness, with thirty thousand inhabitants, contained 

1 May, Const. Hist., i. 277. 

2 These places were : Dartmouth 2, Dover 1, Harwich 2, 
Hythe 2, Windsor 1, Hampshire 2, Yarmouth 1, Queensborough 2, 
Rochester 1, Sandwich 2. Oldfield, vi. 292. 

3 Petition of the Friends, &c. 4 May, Const. Hist., i. 295. 
5 lb. i. 295. 



forty-seven voters, of whom thirty-six had no real pro- 
perty in it. In Invernessshire, with a population of 
ninety thousand, there were but eighty-eight voters, of 
whom fifty were unconnected with the land. And 
the county of Bute, which contained a population of 
fourteen thousand, had twenty-one electors, of whom 
only one resided within it. 1 

With respect to the boroughs, everything that bore 
even the semblance of popular choice had long been 
done away with. The election of members was vested 
in magistrates and town councils that had constituted 
themselves into self-elected bodies, and had deprived the 
people of all participation in the privilege. Edinburgh 
and Glasgow had each a constituency of thirty-three 
persons. The constituencies of the sixty-six boroughs 
amounted to one thousand four hundred and forty. So 
that the entire electoral body of Scotland was not more 
than four thousand,* 2 not a fiftieth part of the Irish 
electorate at or shortly after the Union. 

In 1 8 1 6 there was not a free seat in all Scotland. Of 
the forty-five members returned by that country thirty- 
one were returned by peers or peeresses, and fourteen by 
commoners. 3 No Catholic could vote at elections. 

Humour often decides a question on which reason 
labours in vain. The story told by the Lord Advocate 
in 1 83 1 to the House of Commons will illustrate the 
Scotch representation and its working. The county of 
Bute, as has been mentioned, had twenty-one electors, of 
whom one resided in the county. " At an election at 

1 May, Const. Hist. i. 295. 2 lb. 

3 Oldfield, Bep. Hist., vi, 295. 


Bute only one person attended the meeting except the 
sheriff and returning officer. He of course took the 
chair, constituted the meeting, called over the roll of 
freeholders, answered to his own name, took the vote as 
to the Preses, and elected himself. He then moved and 
seconded his own nomination, put the question as to the 
vote, and was unanimously returned." 1 

1 Hansard, 3 Ser., vii. 529, quoted by May, Const. Hist., i. 297. 


Nature of the connection which existed between Great Britain 
and Ireland after 1782. — Its dangers. — Tendencies to separation, as 
shown in the refusal of a Commercial Treaty. — In the Regency 
question. — In actual and proposed Irish Legislation. 

The settlement of 1782 put an end to the degrading 
position in which Ireland stood with respect to Great 
Britain, and elevated her to the rank of an independent 
kingdom. By it the four grievances of which Ireland 
complained were removed. These grievances were — The 
claim of Great Britain to bind Ireland by her laws : The 
Appellate jurisdiction : the provisions of Poynings' 
law : and the perpetuity of the Mutiny Act. But these 
four grievances may be reduced to one, viz., the claim to 
bind Ireland by enactments made in the British Parlia- 
ment, for the others were merely appurtenant to it. 
The Appellate jurisdiction fell with the legislative claim, 
and the other two were matters of internal arrangement. 
The settlement was final as to the only matters in 
dispute between the two countries, and it established 
fully and perfectly the constitution and legislative 
Independence of Ireland. It was not, however, pre- 
clusive of further measures which the legislatures of 
both countries might deem necessary for securing the 
permanence of the connection between them. It was not 


an abolition of the inherent powers of the two Parlia- 
ments, nor did it extinguish or abridge their deliberative 
or operative capacities. It is evident that it did not 
preclude independent Ireland or independent Great 
Britain from offering to, or accepting from, the other 
an International treaty ; whether that treaty referred to 
commercial regulations or to such an Imperial arrange- 
ment as a Legislative Union. 1 

No attempt was ever made by Great Britain, as has 
been asserted, to violate the legislative independence of 
Ireland as established in 1782. On the contrary, it was 
scrupulously and loyally respected. Ireland was satisfied 
with the repeal of the Declaratory Act of George I. ; 
Great Britain passed a law renouncing all legislative 
claims on Ireland. On every solemn occasion Great 
Britain seized the opportunity of declaring Ireland's 
legislative independence. In 1785, at the time of the 
proposed Commercial Treaty, the Bill, which was intro- 
duced into the English Parliament to carry out its 
provisions, pronounced that the Parliament of Ireland 
was alone competent to make laws binding on that 
kingdom. At the same time, both Houses of the 
British Parliament concurred in an address to the Crown 
containing an explicit declaration to the same effect. 
The stipulation required by Great Britain that Ireland 
should adopt England's commercial regulations and 

1 The babble about the "finality" of the settlement of 1782 
is melancholy reading. Three questions only did or could arise 
respecting the Union — 1. Were the two legislatures competent to 
enact itl 2. "Was it of so great advantage to both nations as to 
make it desirable % 3. Was the time opportune 1 



re-enact them in her own legislature, was the strongest 
acknowledgment of Ireland's independence. In 1 799, 
Pitt, in the British Parliament, declared that the Irish 
Parliament possessed the sole and uncontrolled right and 
discretion to reject or accept any proposal of a measure 
of Union, and stated that the British legislature was 
incompetent in any way to bind Ireland by its laws. 
Indeed, the recommendation of the Sovereign directed 
to the Irish Parliament in 1799 to take the project of 
Union into their consideration was a practical admission 
that they, and they alone, were competent to decide on 
such a question. 

To have passed a statute in Great Britain, and acting 
under it, to have enforced a Union on Ireland, would 
have been a violation of Irish independence. Even a 
request from the former kingdom to Ireland that the 
latter should resume the dependent position she occupied 
before 1782, would not have been a violation of her 
independence, provided that request was accompanied by 
an acknowledgment of Ireland's absolute rio;ht to refuse 
or to grant the request. But nothing of this kind was 
done. The proposal of a Legislative Union was an offer 
made by one independent nation to another equally 
independent, and accepted by that other. Twice before, in 
1 703 and 1 707, the Irish Parliament had proposed such a 
Union to Great Britain. If this proposal had been 
accepted by Great Britain, no one would presume to say 
that this acceptance would have affected her legislative 
independence, or even lowered her national prestige. 
How then can it be urged that the acceptance by 
Ireland of a similar offer destroyed her legislative 


independence ? To assert that the Union of 1 800 ex- 
tinguished the legislative powers of Ireland, or lowered 
her Imperial dignity, is to confound independence with 
distinctness, and union with subordination. The volun- 
tary union of two partners does not extinguish the 
individuality of either, or affect his personal worth. The 
addition of two numbers does not destroy or lessen the 
value of either of the constituent factors. 

If rightly considered, it will be seen that the Legis- 
lative Union, though it put an end to Ireland's 
distinctness, secured for ever her legislative indepen- 
\ dence. Independent Ireland, by the Act of Union, and 
by the voice of her King, Lords and Commons, declared 
that from henceforth she would commix and unite her 
Parliament with that of Great Britain, and that the 
new Parliament, formed from this mixture, should for 
the future give laws to Irishmen. It is from this 
operative Act of Ireland's King, Lords, and Commons, 
that the power of the mingled or Imperial Parliament 
to bind the inhabitants of Ireland by its laws is derived. 
It is this, and this alone, which confers the authority 
upon the Imperial Parliament of making laws for 
Ireland, and in every Act of that Legislature the 
voice of Ireland is still heard, and her legislative 
independence is not dead, but daily makes itself known. 
For it is from the power which she conferred on the new 
Imperial Parliament that that Parliament has the right 
to legislate for the inhabitants of Ireland. Her 
mandate constitutes the Imperial Parliament, as far as 
Irish legislative matters are concerned, the agent or factor 
of Ireland, and makes that mixed legislature the native 


4 g 

Parliament of Ireland, as much as it is the native Parlia- 
ment of Yorkshire or Scotland : as much her native 
Parliament as was that which sat in College Green. 

The acknowledgment of Irish in dependence by Great 
Britain, and the settlement of 1782, were of the last 
importance to Ireland. For her independence enabled 
her to treat as an equal in the subsequent settlement of 
1S00, and to demand and exact as an equal fair and 
advantageous terms for a legislative union. It put her 
in a position to dictate the only alliance which she would 
accept. It was a necessary step, but only a step, in a 
movement, which, though it was to a certain extent con- 
trolled by individuals, did not originate with them. It 
arose from those tendencies which, though hidden from 
the immediate actors, give rise to and direct the develop- 
ment of societies. It sprang from the necessities of the 
two countries, and especially from the condition and 
circumstances of Ireland. 

For an incorporate union, in some shape or other, 
was inevitable, and only a matter of the shortest time. 
Even if the connection between the two kingdoms, 
instead of being as faulty as the wit of man could 
devise, had been perfect — if every asperity between them 
had been smoothed, and the commercial intercourse had 
been freed from every cause of friction — if their tariff 
had been settled, duties equalised, the navigation laws 
relaxed, and all jealousies removed, an incorporation of 
the two countries would still have been necessary. Such 
a union was imperatively called for by the requirements 
of the Empire, and by those of Ireland herself. The 
repeated French invasions of Ireland, and the hostility 



of the Catholic community, 1 had taught Great Britain 
the necessity of guarding the door of the Empire, and 
of anticipating, by an incorporation of the country, the 
efforts of foreign enemies and the designs of domestic 
traitors. For Ireland the measure was absolutely essen- 
tial. The Catholic question had already assumed 
gigantic proportions. The American War, the French 
Kevolution, and the grant of the franchise to the 
Catholics in 1793, had advanced the question in almost 
a moment by fifty years. Like the gourd of the pro- 
phet, it had started up and ripened in a single night. 
It was a question which never could have been settled 
without a contest in a separate Ireland. The Protestant 
Parliament would not, indeed they could not, have 
granted complete emancipation, for the grant would have 
immediately led to a Catholic majority in the legislature. 
The Parliament was well aware of the danger of its 
position, and that Ireland could not exist an hour as a 
Protestant state without the support of England, or the 
continuance of disqualifying laws. 2 When England 
refused, or made no answer to the Irish request for a 
legislative union in 1703, the Irish Parliament, despair- 

1 " In Ireland the name of England and her power is universally 
odious. The Catholics are enemies to the English power from a 
hatred to the English name." Wolfe Tone to the French Directory. 
This gentleman had opportunities of knowing the truth, for he was 
for some years the Secretary of the Catholic Committee in Dublin, 
and was voted a sum of 1,500^. for his services by it. 

2 In 1785 a member thus explained their position to the 
House of Commons : " The assertion of my right honourable friend 
[Fitzgibbon, afterwards Lord Clare] is that this nation could not 
exist one hour as an independent Protestant state without the 



ing of their power of maintaining themselves among a 

hostile people, resolved to reduce their opponents to 

political impotency by the enactment of the penal laws. 

It is a mistake to suppose that these laws were the 

result of a persecuting spirit or religious animosity. 

They sprang from political fears and disquietude. 

Fourteen years only had then elapsed since the 

Catholics had made a determined effort in 1689, the 

second within a period of fifty years, to root out the 

Protestant community from Ireland. In this effort they 

had deprived the Protestants of twelve million acres of 

their land, and by the infamous Act of Proscription, 


which no Catholic writer has ever reprobated, had 
doomed two thousand five hundred of their nobility, 
gentry and traders to "such pains of death, 
penalties, and forfeitures respectively as in cases 
of high treason are accustomed." 1 • About the time of 
the Union it was the deliberate opinion of the vast 
majority of the Irish Parliament that laws disqualify- 
ing the Catholics from political power were neces- 
sary for their own safety. 2 This belief was not 
limited to the Irish Parliament, it was shared by many 
Liberal statesmen in England. In 1799 Canning 

support of Great Britain. The House knows very well that they 
do not represent more than one-fourth of the people of Ireland, and 
that to that fourth the connection with England is essential. And 
I desire, fjentlemeD, to reflect that if the connection was broken the 
same representatives would not be found in Parliament. The 
salvation of this kingdom as a Protestant state depends on it." 
Par. Reg. v. 472. 1 The words of the Act. 

2 The proposal to admit Catholics to Parliament in 1797 was 
rejected by a majority of 170 to 30. 

E 2 



intimated his opinion in the British Commons that if 
the Union with Ireland did not take place, it might be 
necessary to re-fortify the Protestant ascendency by 
reviving the old penal code against the Catholics. As 
long as this opinion prevailed, full emancipation was 
impossible, and the right of sitting in Parliament would 
not have been granted without a long struggle. It was a 
case of union with peace, or continued disqualification 
and civil contests. The Act of 1793, which conceded 
the franchise to Catholics, had brought the two com- 
munities face to face ; the Catholics relying on their 
enormous numerical preponderance, the possession of 
more than two- thirds of the voting power of the country, 
and their hopes of foreign aid ; the Protestants em- 
boldened by their political ascendency and the knowledge 
that Great Britain would not desert them. 1 Thetwo parties 
were infuriated against each other ; maddened by their 
mutual wrongs and sufferings during the rebellion they 
were eagerly straining on the leash. Even the full 
emancipation of the Catholics would only have pre- 
cipitated the contest and brought it to a head. For 
the question whether Ireland should be Protestant or 
Catholic w x ould then have arisen, and would have been 
fought to the bitter end. There was but one way of 
keeping the peace between the discordant factions, and 
that was by an incorporate union. After such a union 
the demands of the Catholics might be safely conceded, 

1 " Two infuriated parties, contending for superiority, stood 
opposed to each other, and the Government of the country had a 
most favourable opportunity of becoming the mediator." Wakefield's 
Ireland, ii. 360. 



but in a separate Ireland there was nothing to look 
forward to but national dissension, and perhaps a bloody 
convulsion followed by a re-conquest Happily, as will 
be seen hereafter, no sooner were the terms of the Legis- 
lative Union made known, than that measure was speedily 
and thankfully accepted by the two communities. 

The nature of the connection which subsisted between 
Great Britain and Ireland after the settlement of 1782 was 
unexampled. It has often been called a Federal Union. 
But it was not, strictly speaking, such a union. By a 
Federal Union is generally meant a union between two 
independent states unconnected before by any consti- 
tutional tie, by which union both states sacrifice some- 
thing of their natural independence in exchange for the 
benefits expected to flow from the new connection. But 
Ireland was not, and for many generations had not been, 
in this position with respect to England. Before as after 
1782 she was inextricablv connected with England, and 
the crowns of the two kingdoms were mero-ed or blended 

The position of Ireland with respect to Great Britain 
after the settlement of 1 782 was this. Her crown was in- 
separably annexed to that of England. This Imperial 
Union was not the mere result of a temporary or 
accidental devolution of the crowns on the same head by 
descent, as was the case of the Scotch and English 
crowns when they devolved on James I. The British 
and Irish crowns were irrevocably blended together. 
The King of England was necessarily and ipso facto the 
King of Ireland, in whatever manner he obtained the 
English crown. His being King; of Enoland was the 



sine quel non, the efficient cause, of his being King of 
Ireland. He was Kino; of Ireland because he was King 
of England. By the Irish statute 1 of Henry VIIL the 
King of England is immediately King of Ireland, and 
his title to the Irish crown is at once perfect, and 
requires no sanction from an Irish statute. Accordingly 
the various English Acts altering the succession of the 
crown in England have not been re-enacted in Ireland. 
When the English Parliament disposed of the English 
crown, they likewise disposed of the Irish crown. Thus 
when William III. was acknowledged as King of Eng- 
land in England, the Irish Parliament, by the Act of 
Eecognition 2 admitted, that the crown of Ireland 
followed the grant of that of England, and that the 
title of the English Sovereign to be King; of Ireland did 


not require the sanction of an Irish Act. This position 
has never been questioned. 

There thus existed a perfect unity of the Executive in 
both countries ; and this unity was confirmed by an 
Irish Act passed in 1782, during the feverish excitement 
of the Declaration of Independence. 3 By this Act, no 
Parliament could be held in Ireland without a licence 
under the Great Seal of Britain, and no Irish Bill could 
pass into law unless returned from England under the 
same Great Seal. As the Great Seal remains always in 
the possession, and under the control of the Executive 
of Great Britain, it is evident that this enactment accen- 
tuates the complete identity of the Executive in both 
countries. These considerations will be of importance 

1 33 Henry VIIL c. 1. 2 4 Wm. and Mary, c. 1. 

a 21 & 22 Geo. III. c. 47. 



when we come to consider the conduct of the Irish 
Parliament in the Regency question of 1789. 

But the unity between the kingdoms stopped here. 
The Empire was, in theory, one and indivisible, but it 
had two wills and two voices. It was a single head with 
two bodies, which occasionally showed a disposition to 
advance along divergent paths. The only tie which bound 
Great Britain and Ireland together after 1782 was the 
unity of the Executive. Forwemay leave out of account the 
power of refusing to place the Great Seal to an Irish Act, 
as the exercise of this negative would at once have placed 
both countries in a state of opposition. 1 The unity of 
the Executive may have been an adequate bond in times 
of repose and quietude, but the slightest sedition was 
sufficient to snap it. We shall see that from a few years 
after the adjustment of 1782, the Irish Parliament 
manifested alarming tendencies to separation, particularly 
in its refusal of a commercial treaty with Great Britain ; 
in its illegal and unconstitutional proceedings in the 
Regency question in 1789; and in its policy towards the 
Catholics in 1 793. It only requires a short consideration 
to perceive the dangers which threatened the Empire 
from the existence within it of two legislatures, leaving 
out of consideration altogether the hostility of the Celtic 

The mere form of a separate Government tended to 
keep alive the idea of separate and antagonistic interests, 

1 So strongly was this felt by the English Government that they 
did not venture to refuse the King's assent to the Irish Act of 1793, 
granting the franchise to Catholics, although this favour was denied 
the English and Scotch Catholics for thirty years subsequently. 



and weakened the conception of unity. The existence of 
two Parliaments led to jealousies and dissensions, and 
perpetually suggested the belief in every dispute, whether 
great or small, that something was to be gained by the 
one at the expense of the other, and that nothing should be 
mutually conceded if it could with safety be retained. But 
there were graver possibilities of difference which a moment 
of haste or anger might have called into operation. 1 

r. On a declaration of war by Great Britain, Ireland — 
as it was her undoubted right to discuss such a question 
— might have refused to take part in it, and her refusal 
w 7 ould have paralysed the Empire. In 1791 Wolfe Tone 
published a pamphlet in Dublin, An Inquiry hoiv far 
Ireland is bound of right to embark in the impending 
Contest on the side of Great Britain. About the same 
time Arthur O'Connor published an address to the 
•electors of the county of Antrim, in which he maintained 
that Ireland might league herself with France or Great 
Britain, as one or the other alliance seemed most con- 
ducive to her interest. It will be said that these men 
were traitors. True ; but even traitors do not address an 
audience unless they have reason to believe that a part 
at least of that audience is favourable to their views. 

1 " Within the short period of six years from the establishment 
of what is called the independence of the Irish Parliament — from 
the year 1782 to the year 1788 — the foreign relations of the two 
countries, the commercial intercourse of the two countries, the 
sovereign exercise of authority in the two countries, were the 
subjects of litigation and dispute ; and it was owing more to 
accident than to any other cause that they did not produce a3tual 
alienation and rupture." — Speech of Sir Robert Peel, 25th of April, 



2. On a declaration, or during the continuance of a 
war. Ireland might have refused to grant supplies to 
Great Britain. " I do acknowledge," said Grattan, in 
the Irish Parliament, "that by your power over the 
purse you might dissolve the State." 1 Again, in 1800, 
he said, in the same place, " On these principles I 
suppose the dissent of Ireland on the subject of w 7 ar 
highly improbable." By the word " improbable " he 
admits the possibility ; and possibilities of dissent should 
be excluded from that unity of operation which the 
needs of an Empire demand. 

3. She might have imposed retaliatory duties on 
British commodities, and provoked a commercial war of 
rates. This was actually proposed in the House in 1784, 
two years after the settlement, and was only defeated 
when the Commons were reminded that the Irish linen 
trade existed by the favour of Great Britain, and by the 
differential duties imposed on foreign linens. 2 

4. She might have put pressure on her Sovereign to 

1 Pari. Hist. v. 356. 

2 Pitt tells us how much this favour to Ireland cost Great Britain. 
" Nothing would more clearly show what would be the danger to 
Ireland from the competition in all its principal branches of the 
linen trade than the simple fact that we, even then, imported foreign 
linen under that heavy duty [30 per cent.] to an amount equal 
to a seventh part of all that Ireland was able to send us, with the 
preference already stated. By this arrangement alone we must be 
considered either as foregoing between 700,000^. and 800,000^. per 
annum in revenue, which we should collect if we chose to levy the 
same duty on all linens, Irish as well as foreign ; or, on the other 
hand, as sacrificing perhaps at least a million sterling in the price 
paid for those articles by the subjects of this country." — Speech, 
31st January, 1799. 



declare war with a country with which Great Britain 
was at peace. This was not a mere possibility. At a 
time when Great Britain was at war with America and 
the whole of Western Europe, except Portugal, and 
when there was not a port open to her from the Baltic 
to the Mediterranean* except Lisbon, it was proposed 
in the Irish Parliament to address the King, calling on 
him, as King of Ireland, to assert Ireland's rights by 
hostilities against Portugal, his only ally. 1 

5. She might have differed from Great Britain on any 
international question in reference to the connection 
between them, as she did on the Begency question. 

6. She might have altered the whole scheme and 
theory of representation throughout the Empire, as she 
did in 1793, by admitting the Catholics to the franchise 
before a similar step was taken by Great Britain. If 
Grattan's proposal of admitting Catholics to Parliament 
had been adopted, a few months would have seen a 
Catholic majority in the Irish legislature. 

7. She might have refused — as she did — to make 
a commercial treaty with Great Britain, and thus kept 
open the most obvious and fertile sources of mutual 
jealousies and discontents. 

Pitt summed up in a few words the possibilities of 

1 6th Feb. 1782. — Pari. Reg. i. 214; Barrington, Rise and Fall, 
pp. 94 — 97. Barrington' s statements should never be accepted 
unless confirmed by other authority. He was charged in 1830 with 
embezzling the moneys of suitors in his court, and was removed on 
the petition of both Houses of Parliament. The only instance of 
the degradation of a judge since the tenure of the office has been 
" during good behaviour." His publications are full of " wonderful 
statements more amusing than trustworthy." 



danger connected with the relation which existed 

between the countries before the Union. "A party in 

England may give to the Throne one species of advice by 

its Parliament. A parry in Ireland may advise directly 

opposite upon the most essential points that involve 

the safety of both ; upon alliance with a foreign power, 

for instance ; npon the army : upon the navy ; upon any 

branch of the public service; upon trade ; upon commerce; 

or npon any point essential to the Empire at large." 1 

Grattan was fond of hurling threats, more or less con- 

© ; 

eealed, against Great Britain. One of his later, sj^eeches 
suggests some of the many ways in which Ireland might 

©O - © 

have injured Great Britain and weakened her power and 
trade. "Does the minister, when he talks of an eleemo- 
synary trade, recollect how the Irish Parliament could 
affect the East India Company by discontinuing the 
Ar t of 1793 granted but for a limited time ? Does he 
recollect how she could affect the British West India 
monopoly by withdrawing her exclusive consumption 
from the British plantations ? Does he recollect how we 
could affect the navy of England by regulations regard- 
ing our Irish provisions ? Does he recollect how we 
could affect her Empire by forming commercial 
intercourse with the rest of the world ? " 2 

We shall now leave the possibilities of danger and 
come to the actual occasions on which graver tendencies 
of divergence and separation were manifested by the 
Irish Parliament. 

In 1779 Ireland obtained free trade to all the world, 

Cobbett's Pari. Uist. xxxiv. 253. 

2 j 5 t)i January, 1800. 



the colonies of Great Britain only excepted. 1 A few 
months later the right to trade with these colonies was 
also given, on the single condition that Ireland should 
conform to such rules as Great Britain should enact for 
the regulation of this trade, and that her Parliament 
should impose on all goods imported from or exported to 
the colonies the same duties as Great Britain should lay 
on these commodities. As the colonies were the ex- 
clusive possessions of Great Britain, this concession was 
justly looked on as a favour, and as, to quote the words 
of a unanimous resolution of the Irish Commons, " a 
most affectionate mark of the regard and attention of 
Great Britain to our distresses." 2 The condition was 
accepted with satisfaction and gratitude, and the Irish 
Parliament at once enacted that all commodities imported 
from or exported to the colonies should be " liable to 
equal duties and drawbacks, and be subject to the same 
securities, regulations, and restrictions as the like goods 
are liable and subject to upon being imported from the 
said colonies into Great Britain, or exported thence to 
such colonies." On this principle of similarity of 
laws on the subject of trade, enactments were, annually 
made by the Irish Parliament down to 1785. Thus in 
1780 an equalising Act was passed, and in 1781 another 
was enacted in order that the Irish duties might 
correspond with new rates which Great Britain had 
imposed in the interval. 3 The principle was even carried 

1 The trade to East India, being the exclusive monopoly of a 
Company, was reserved. The English as well as the Irish subjects 
were excluded from this branch of trade. 

2 20th Dec. 1 j 7 9.— Pari Beg. v. 376. 3 Pari. Reg. v. 368. 



further in 1782. Hitherto it had been confined to 
the colony trade, but the Act of this year extends to a 
similarity in the laws of commerce generally, and enacts 
that all provisions made in Great Britain conveying equal 
advantages and imposing equal restrictions on the 
inhabitants of both countries should bind the subjects 
in Ireland. It is remarkable that this Act was drawn 
by Grattan, Yelverton, and Fitzgibbon. 1 The reader 
will observe that at this time no objection was made by 
Grattan that Ireland, by adopting the rules which Great 
Britain should make for the regulation of the trade 
common to both countries, would be merely (( sub- 
scribing" and "registering" laws made by Great 
Britain " It was admitted that Ireland could not 
participate in the commerce of the sister kingdom with- 
out consenting to regulate that commerce by a similarity 
of laws. The fantastic speculation, to which the treaty 
of commerce in 1785 was sacrificed, had not yet been 
started, viz., that Ireland, by enacting the same regula- 
tions in her own Parliament under which the trade was 
enjoyed by Englishmen, would surrender her legislative 
rights. 3 

1 Pari. Peg. vi. 474. 

2 Grattan's words in 1785 : " By this Bill [the proposed treaty 
of commerce] we are to covenant that the Parliament of Ireland 
shall subscribe whatever laws the Parliament of England shall 
prescribe and — "Pass this Bill and you are not the representatives 
of Ireland, but the register of the British Parliament." — Pari. Reg. 

v - 355- 

3 Lord Clare asserts that this idea first arose among the Opposi- 
tion in England, and that when its author " stated it to the party 
with whom he acted, they reprobated the deception as too gross even 
for Irish dupery, He told them—' I know my countrymen, and be 



From 1779 to 1784 Ireland was satisfied on the 
subject of trade. But in the latter year it was dis- 
covered that the commercial intercourse between Great 
Britain and Ireland was unequal — that England poured 
her manufactures into Ireland and at the same time shut 
Ireland out from the English market by her duties. 
Ireland also complained of a construction which Great 
Britain put upon her navigation laws. At first the remedy 
proposed was a war of prohibitory duties, but, as we have 
stated, the Irish Parliament was reminded that the Irish 
linen trade depended on the good- will of Great Britain, 
and the proposal was rejected by a large majority. An 
address to the Crown was then proposed, and passed 
unanimously, praying that its servants should be 
directed to draw up a plan of commercial intercourse 
between the two countries. Accordingly such a plan 
was drawn up and presented to the Irish Parliament, 
digested into eleven resolutions. The resolutions were 
agreed to and sent over to England to be there re- 
examined and considered. 

A storm of commercial jealousy arose at once in 
Eugland. Petitions against the Irish proposals were 
laid before the British Parliament from upwards of sixty 
of the great cities and towns. 1 Many of the principal 
manufactures declared in their evidence before the House 
of Lords that they would remove their capital and 

assured they will swallow the bait.' ; ' — Lord Clare's Speech, 10th 
Feb. 1800. Pitt also assures us that this idea was derived from 
England. — Speech, 31st January, 1799. 

1 One petition alone " was signed by no less than 80,000 
manufacturers of Lancashire." — Stanhope's Pitt, i. 269. 


business to Ireland, where labour was cheaper. But Pitt 
was not to be moved. 1 Twenty resolutions were drawn 
up containing a commercial treaty between Great Britain 
and Ireland and passed by the English Houses of 
Parliament. At the same time a Bill to carrv out this 
treaty was introduced into the British legislature, in 
which it was explicitly declared that the Irish Parlia- 
ment was alone competent to make laws for Ireland. 

These resolutions differed in number from those of 
Ireland, but they were practically the same. The addi- 
tions referred to patents, or copyrights in books, or to 
regulations intended to guard against smuggling. The 

O O CO o 

leading features of this treaty were : The complete 
opening up of the markets of both countries to each 
other; the equalisation of all duties between them; the 
relaxation of the navigation laws in favour of Ireland : 
the making permanent the grant to her of the colonial 
trade which was precarious and revocable ; and the admis- 
sion of Irishmen to every commercial benefit and privilege 
enjoyed by Englishmen. One of these resolutions," 2 the 

1 " It has required infinite patience, management, and exertion to 
meet the clamour without doors, and to prevent it infecting our 
supporters in the House." — Pitt to the Duke of Rutland, lb. 271. 
The alarm among the English manufacturers was great. Mr. 
Peel, father of Sir Robert, actually came to Ireland, and was pre- 
paring to enter an Irish house in case the treaty should be made. — - 
Speech of the Right Hon. John Bere?ford, 19th March, 1800. 

1 11 4. That it is highly important to the general interests of the 
British Empire that the laws for regulating trade and navigation 
should be the same in Great Britain and IreLmd, and therefore that 
it is essential towards carrying into effect the present settlement 
that all laws which have been made or shall be made in Great 
Britain for securing exclusive privileges to the ships and mariners 


fourth, contained the same principle of similarity in the 
laws of trade and navigation which had been regularly 
adopted in the Acts passed in the Irish Parliament since 
1 779, and stood recorded in its proceedings. It was this 
resolution which fired the petulant jealousy of the Irish 
Parliament, though the provisions of this resolution were 
already the law of Ireland as established by the Act of 
1782, which Act had been drawn up by Grattan, 
Yelverton and Fitzgibbon. 

The resolutions, after they had been agreed to by the 
English Parliament, were sent over to Ireland. They 
were there digested into a Bill by Mr. Orde, the Secre- 
tary of the Lord-Lieutenant, and in this shape presented 
to the Irish Commons. The Bill was received with an 
Irish howl. Ireland was determined to resent an offence 
that never was intended, and to repel an injury that 
never was offered. Though in every session since 1779, 
when she obtained the colony trade, she had in her Acts 
recited the condition on which she held it, and re-enacted 
the British rates after reciting them ; though the 
principle of re-enacting such regulations as Great Britain 
had made or should make for the regulation of trade and 
navigation was recorded in her own Act ; l though the 
British Houses had just declared in a joint address to the 
Crown that the Irish Parliament was alone competent to 

of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British colonies, and for regulat- 
ing and restraining the trade of the British colonies and plantations, 
such laws imposing the same restraints and conferring the same 
benefits on the subjects of both kingdoms, should be in force in 
Ireland by laws to be passed by the Parliament of that kingdom for 
the same time and in the same manner as in Great Britain." 
1 21 & 22 Geo. III. c. 48, 1781-2. 



make laws for Ireland, and the British Bill repeated this 
declaration ; and though, what is strangest of all, it was 
specially provided in the Bill that the treaty should not 
land Ireland a moment longer than she pleased, 1 it was 
rejected on the imaginary ground that it threatened the 
legislative independence of Ireland. 

Grattan was told in the House that his objections to. 
the treaty were entirely " void of foundation, and fraught 
with absurdity and mischief — calculated to answer the 
worst of purposes, to spread a false alarm through all 
parts of the kingdom, to irritate the public without just 
cause against the British Parliament, and to persuade the 
people that the constitutional independence of their 
country was in danger at the very moment that it was 
most secure, at the very moment that all branches of the 
legislature in both countries were vying with each other 
which of them should assert the independence of Ireland 
in the strongest terms." 2 He was warned in the same 
place that his doctrine and words led to separation. 3 
But Grattan was as obstinate as he was impervious to 
argument With the fanatical cry of " Perish the 

1 Grattan admitted this : " It is declared by the Bill that the 
King, Lords, and Commons of Great Britain mast pronounce by a 
positive statute that Ireland has broken the treaty before she can 
be charged with a breach of it. But if Ireland thinks that Great 
Britain has violated it. no other authority is thought necessary for 
charging the breach upon her but an address of both Houses of the 
Irish Parliament. This is a strong guard to Ireland against the 
influence that ministers may be supposed to have over it, and conse- 
quently an advantage on the part of Ireland.'" — Grattan's Speech, 
Pari. Beg. v. 366. 

-/£. 367. 2/6.417. 




Empire, live the Constitution," 1 he threw away what 
would have been of inestimable advantage to his country. 
The tariff between England and Ireland, the Channel 
trade, and the navigation laws remained unsettled, and 
a Legislative Union loomed into sight. 

Grattan affected to believe that the acceptance of the 
treaty by Ireland would have been a subversion of her 
legislative independence. Charles James Fox took a very 
different view of the position which Ireland would occupy. 
Here are his words : ' 'The whole tendencies of the proposals 
appeared to him to go the length of appointing Ireland the 
sole guardian of the laws of navigation, and grand arbitress 
of all the commercial interests of the Empire." 2 Foster, 
the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, urged in vain " if 
Great Britain grants us a full partnership in all her 
trade in all her colonies ; if she admits us to a full par- 
ticipation in the benefits of her navigation laws, by which 
she has raised herself to be the greatest commercial 
power in the world ; if she does not call upon us to con- 
tribute to the expense of the partnership, but merely to 
receive our share of the profits ; and says we may 
continue in that partnership only so long as we choose, 
can any man say the condition of it is a surrender of our 
legislature ? Let us then look at the subject free from 
imaginary dread of constitution." 3 

When we remember that the Scotch Union was long 
retarded by Scotland's insisting upon having the benefits 
of trading with the English colonies, and of the 
navigation laws, favours which England refused ; and 

1 Grattan' s words, Pari. Reg. v. 356. 

2 Cobbett's Pari. Hist. xxv. 333. 3 Pari. Reg. v. 412. 



that the Scotch required an express provision for that 
purpose 1 to be inserted in the Act of Union, we cannot 
sufficiently wonder at the caprice of Ireland in refusing 
what was freely and generously offered at her own 
suggestion, and with a view only of a union of common 
interests and affection. Equal laws and regulations of 
trade were gladly accepted by Scotland, they were 
refused by Ireland in a tempest of indignation. 

It was not for want of advice that Ireland made the 
mistake of rejecting the commercial treaty. We shall 
only quote the counsels of two of her friends, the one 
from the greatness of him who gave it, the other from 
the position then and afterwards filled by its author. 
On the 25th May, 1785, Edmund Burke wrote to a 
friend of Grattan's while these proceedings were going 
on : 2 " This is the only moment, in my idea, for Ireland 
to fix her happiness, commercial and political, upon a 
solid and firm basis. If pertinacity or an ill-understood 
punctilio should be suffered to step in, to prevent the 
operation of the good sense of your country, and prevent 
our now coming to a final settlement upon some system 
that may connect the two countries permanently, and 
for ever lay asleep every motive of jealousy and dispute, 
every man either of wisdom or feeling will soon have 
reason to regret the day when the question was first 
stirred amongst us, and that anything was done to let 

1 See Act of Scotch Union, Defoe, History of the Union. 

2 The letter was evidently intended to be shown to Grattan. It 
was found among his papers, and is quoted by his son. Grattan s 
Life, iii. 252. 

F 2 


all loose from the hands of the old situation, 1 before 
due consideration was had upon what should be those 
of the new." 

The other is that of Mr. Foster, the Chancellor of the 
Irish Exchequer, and afterwards Speaker, and the recog- 
nised leader of the Anti-Unionists. He regarded the 
refusal of the treaty as leading directly to separation. 
The statement is weighty, even solemn, and every word 
falls on the ear like the stroke of a bell. " I could run 
on for hours into the many benefits of this system, but I 
have tired the House too long ; let me only implore 
you not to reject the measure for ill-founded visionary 
objections, or sacrifice realities to shadows. If this 
infatuated country gives up the present offer she may 
look for it again in vain. Things cannot remain as 
they are, commercial jealousy is roused. It will in- 
crease with two independent legislatures, if they do 
not mutually declare the principles whereby their 
powers shall be separately employed in directing the 
common concerns of trade ; and without a united 
interest of commerce in a commercial empire, political 
union will receive many shocks, and separation of 
interests must threaten separation of connection which 
every honest Irishman must shudder to look at. I 
will say that if this measure be refused, Ireland will 
receive more solid injury than from any other evil 
that ever befel her. It is in vain for gentlemen to 
think we can go on as we have done for some 
years, or to expect to cope with England in a destruc- 
tive war of bounties. Our situation must every day 
1 Tho italics are in the letter as given in Grattan's Life. 



become more difficult, and it is impossible to foresee 
the event.'" 1 

Three days afterwards he renewed his entreaty to the 
House. " I will stand or fall with the Bill, that not 
a line in it touches your constitution. It is now left 
to the decision of the country, it is not abandoned,* 2 
God forbid it should, and I trust I shall see the country 
ask it at our hands. That we may be able to obtain it, 
shall be my prayer, and it will be my pride at a future 
day, when its real value shall be known, that I bore a 
leading share in this transaction ; that I laboured to 
procure for Ireland solid and substantial benefits which 
even two years ago no man had an idea of ever 
looking to." 

Had this treaty been accepted, it would have poured 
a current of wealth into Ireland. Commercial inter- 
course would have smoothed all asperities existing 
between the two countries, and done away with mutual 
jealousies and discontents. A constant and uninter- 
rupted communication would have drawn them closer, 
and united them in the bonds of common interests and 
affection. And Ireland might have again renewed the 
offer which she made in 1703 and 1707, and asked for, 
what her coming difficulties made necessary, an incorporate 
union with Great Britain. 

Four years later another Imperial question arose — 
that of the Regency. 

On the 5tL of February, 1789, the malady of the 

1 Part. Beg. v. 413. 

2 Unhappily, owing to the violent opposition it met with, it was 


King was announced to the Irish Parliament in the 
Speech from the Throne. On the following day, docu- 
ments explaining the nature and extent of the King's 
illness were laid on the table of the House of Commons/ 
and it was proposed that an interval of ten days — that 
is, to the 1 6th — should be allowed for the consideration 
of this momentous question. Grattan moved an amend- 
ment that the House should sit on the nth, and this 
amendment was carried. On the i ith, when the House 
met, Fitzgibbon pressed for " some decent space of time 
for deliberation." But Grattan was inexorable, and the 
House, without a tittle of evidence before them of the 
then health of the King, for the documents which had 
been laid on their table were two months old, came to 
two resolutions. The first was " that the personal 
exercise of the Koyal authority was interrupted for the 
present by His Majesty's indisposition." The other was 
"that an humble address should be presented to His 
Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to request of him 
to take upon himself the government of this kingdom 
during His Majesty's indisposition, under the style and 
title of Prince Regent of Ireland." As a matter of fact 
the King was declared convalescent in the London 
Gazette of the nth, the very clay on which the Irish 
Commons suspended him from his royal functions. The 
Committee of the House made their report on the same 
night, and it was instantly agreed to. The next clay, 
the 1 2th, the Address was voted, and sent up to the 
Lords for their concurrence. Thus, within six days from 

1 Copies of the examinations and reports of the King's physicians 
taken before Committees of the British Parliament. 


the time when this matter had been submitted to the 
Commons, did they dispose of it without a semblance of 
deliberation, and, as we shall show, in direct violation of 
the law, for they had no power whatever to appoint a 
Regent of Ireland. On the iSth, both Houses waited on 
the Lord-Lieutenant, and requested him to transmit the 
Address to the Prince of Wales. The Lord-Lieutenant 
declined to do so, informing them "that under the 
impressions which he felt of public duty, and of the oath 
of office he had taken, he was obliged to decline trans- 
mitting their Address into Great Britain, not conceiving 
himself warranted to lay before the Prince of Wales an 
Address purporting to invest his Royal Highness with 
powers to take upon him the government of this realm 
before he shall, by law, be enabled to do so." The 
Commons fired up at this refusal, which they treated as 
an insult, and voted a censure on the Lord-Lieutenant. 
As this nobleman had declined to forward the Address, 
Commissioners were chosen to proceed to London and 
present it to the Prince of Wales. On their arrival in 
that city, the Commissioners found the King restored to 
health. 1 

On the 20th of February, the same day on which 
the Commissioners who were to carry the Address 
to London were appointed, the Commons, at Grattan's 
suggestion, placed the following resolution on their 
records : " That in addressing His Royal Highness the 
Prince of Wales to take upon himself the government 

1 The Commissioners presented the Address on the 26th February. 
The Prince acquainted them with the happy chacge in the Kirig's 
health, and dismissed them with thanks. 


of this country on the behalf, and in the name of His 
Majesty, during His Majesty's present indisposition and 
no longer, the Lords and Commons of Ireland have 
exercised an undoubted right and discharged an indis- 
pensable duty, to which in the present emergency they 
alone are competent." These are the facts of the case; 
we may now consider its constitutional aspects and the 
illegality and dangers of these proceedings. 

We have seen that perfect unity of the Executive in 
England and Ireland was established by the fundamental 
laws of the connection, that by the Irish Act of 
Henry VIII. , the Executive of England, if King in 
England, was ipso facto the Executive of Ireland, and 
that the powers of such Executive were derived only and 
solely from his being appointed in England. Though 
the word Eegent was not mentioned in this Act, 
its spirit and provision included such an officer. As 
Fitzgibbon 1 told the House, " it is not the mere name 
of King, it is not the ring of gold that encircles 
the monarch's head, which is the object of this law. 
No ! The object of the law is that the chief 
executive magistrate and the chief executive power 
in both countries should be one and the same." If 
any doubt as to the construction of this Act remained, 
it was removed by the later Irish Acts of William 
and Mary, and the Act of 1782. The Act of William 
and Mary declared that the crown of Ireland and 
all the powers and prerogatives belonging to it should 

1 Every reader of the Irish debates must be struck by the direct- 
ness with which this distinguished man goes to the kernel of every 
question. A clearer head there was not in Ireland. 



be for over annexed to and dependent on the crown 
of England. The Act of 17S2 made the Great Seal 
of Great Britain necessary to the summoning of an 
Irish Parliament and the passing of Irish Acts. "It 
is clear," says the leader of the Anti-Unionists in 
I 799- "that the Act annexing the crown of Henry 
VIII. extends to the person authorised by Britain 
to administer regal power, whether King, Queen, or 
Regent. Our law of 1782 concerning the Great Seal 
puts it out of doubt ; whoever is Begent of Great 
Britain has that great Seal ; the functions of the 
Irish legislature must cease without its use, and 
therefore the Regent of Britain alone can represent 
the third estate of the Irish legislature." 1 

If then, the British Regent was necessarily and 
ipso facto the Regent of Ireland, and if his Irish 
powers and prerogatives were only derived from his 
prior appointment in Great Britain, the Irish Par- 
liament by appointing an Irish Regent, and by recording 
and claiming that they were alone competent to do so, 
acted in direct violation of the laws regulating the 
connection between the two kingdoms. Their declara- 
tion that they had the power of Ci choosing" 2 endangered 
the only bond which existed between England and 
Ireland — viz., the necessary and perpetual identity 
of the Executive, which excluded all power of choice. 

To nominate a Regent for Ireland before his appoint- 
ment in Great Britain was illegal and unconstitutional ; 

1 The Speaker, nth April, 1799. 

2 " By the determination of the Irish Parliament in choosing for 
their Regent," kc. — Grattan's words, 15th Jan., 1800. 


to do so afterwards would have been superfluous, as 
by his British appointment he would have been 
immediately and ipso facto Regent of Ireland. The 
proper conduct to have been observed by the Irish 
Parliament was, to have waited till a Regent had been 
appointed in Great Britain, and then to have passed 
an Act of Recognition, as was done in the case 
of William III. 

By nominating a Regent for Ireland, before he was 
appointed in Great Britain, the Irish Parliament pre- 
sented to the British Parliament the dangerous alterna- 
tive of accepting the Irish Regent as British Regent, 
and thereby surrendering their own right of appointing, 
or of setting aside the Irish nominee, arid compelling 
obedience in Ireland to the person appointed by the 
British Parliament. This would have been but little 
short of war. 

By nominating the Prince of Wales as Regent of 
Ireland, before his appointment in Great Britain, the 
Irish Parliament not only usurped a right of election 
which the Constitution did not give them, but they ran 
the risk of appointing a different Regent from the person 
named by the British Parliament. Th e Prince of Wales 
might have refused the office on the limited terms 
offered. He might not even have been Regent at all, 
for the Queen might have been appointed. If this 
had taken place, the Governments of the two countries 
would have been entirely different. The three estates in 
each country would have been full, though completely 
separate. In Great Britain there would have been the 
Lords and Commons with a Regent appointed by the British 



Parliament. In Ireland there would have been the Irish 
Lords and Commons with a Eegent appointed by them. 

The Address of the Irish Parliament to the Prince of 
Wales gave him full regal powers. 1 It was the inten- 
tion of the British Parliament to grant him the Regency 
with limited authority. 2 The unity of the Executive 
in both countries clearly demands that its prerogatives 
and powers should be the same in England and Ireland. 
It may be even asserted that the Irish Parliament, by 
intrusting their nominee with different powers from 
those given by the British Parliament, would have 
appointed a different Regent from the one to be named 
in Great Britain. The Executive has no bodily outline 
or conformation. It is only known to the other estates 
by the powers, capacities and limitations with which 
it is endowed. It is not a question of individuality, 
but of a creation of the law. A difference of powers 
constitutes a different executive, for its unity does not 
depend upon the sameness of the person filling it, but 
on the identity of the prerogatives exercised by him. 

The principal offence of the Irish Parliament against 

1 The Irish Address conferred on the Regent "all regal powers, 
jurisdiction, and prerogatives to the Crown and Government be- 
longing." " Oar method, " says Grattan, " differs also from that 
pursued by Great Britain, inasmuch as we give the full exercise of 
the regal power." — Pcwl. Reg. ix. 38. 

2 The Prince had consented to receive the Regency subject to 
three limitations — r. The care of the King's person, household, and 
the appointment of officers and servants was reserved to the Queen. 
2. The Regent was not to be empowered to dispose of the real or 
personal property of the King, or to grant any office in reversion, or 
any pension or office except during pleasure, or 3. to bestow any 
peerage except on the King's issue. — May, Const. Hist. i. 153, 154. 



the Constitution, was the attempt of choosing a Regent. 
They had no choice or right of choice. They were 
bound by their own laws to follow the choice of Great 
Britain of an Executive, and such Executive when 
chosen by Great Britain became, at once and without 
Irish sanction, that of Ireland. The precedent of choos- 
ing by an Irish Parliament would have been most 
dangerous to the connection, and would have led them 
far astray. Let us suppose that it was not a question 
of the King's inability, but of a failure of issue in the 
Brunswick line. Can it be doubted that the Irish 
Parliament, which rushed precipitately to decide the 
Regency question before the British Parliament had 
time to come to a solution, would have greedily seized 
on such an opportunity of showing its legislative 
independence ? 

A short conversation in the Irish Commons will show 
the incredible levity with which Grattan treated this 
Imperial question : 

" Mr. Hobart asked, were the Irish Commissioners 
immediately on their arrival in London to present the 
address to His Royal Highness, even though he were not 
yet invested with the Regency in England ? Or were 
they to wait till such investiture should take place \ 

" Mr. Grattam said, 6 That difficulty will be removed, 
for I think His Royal Highness will be invested before 
the Commissioners can arrive.' 

" Mr. Hobart: 'I beg leave to say that I am not 
answered, for my question supposes the Commissioners 
may possibly arrive before His Royal Highness is 
invested with the Regency.' " 


7 7 

Xo answer was given, fur Grattan was desirous of 
anticipating the action of the British Parliament. 

The commercial treat)' and the Regency dispute 
referred to the connection between the two countries, 
and was in some degree external, but the internal legis- 
lation of Ireland also threatened the bond which kept 
the kingdoms together. In 1793 an Irish Act admitted 
Catholic forty-shilling freeholders to the franchise, while 
it reserved the right of sitting in Parliament to 
Protestants. 1 At one stroke the Irish electorate 
was tripled, and a peasantry of whose ignorance, 
poverty and superstition, we can form a very inadequate 
idea, and many of whom did not speak English, were at 
once given the power of determining every county 
election. Happily for the peace of the country, for 
otherwise the whole representation would have been in 
their possession, the pocket-boron ghs were Protestant, 
the Catholics being excluded from them in practice, 
though not by law. In Ireland almost all the land was 
let on lives, 2 and the practical effect of the Act was to 
create something like universal suffrage. 3 Tenants 
whose rent did not exceed half-a-crown were admitted 
to the franchise. 4 This Act of the Irish Parliament 

1 This was the most illogical measure ever passed by a legislature. 
The law said to the Catholics, " You may vote, but you must not 
vote for those you have confidence in. You must vote for those who 
are opposed to your claims and of whose principles you disapprove/' 

- Wakefield's Ireland, ii. 300. Pari. Hist. xiii. 213. 

3 Wakefield, ii. 301. 

4 " I have known freeholders registered among mountain tenantry 
whose yearly head rent did not exceed 2s. 6d., but, living upon this 
half-crown tenure, were enabled to swear to a derivative interest of 
40s. per annum." — Wakefield, ii. 301. 


altered the whole scheme and theory of representation 
in the Empire, and destroyed its equality and conformity 
throughout the three kingdoms. The Catholic question 
was not peculiar to Ireland ; there were many of that 
body in England, and the highlands of Scotland were 
then largely Catholic. The relation of these citizens to 
the Sovereign of the Empire was an Imperial question, 
and should not have been precipitated or hurried forward 
in any part of the dominion without the concurrence 
and counsel of the Central Executive. Though the 
Irish Parliament did not trouble themselves to maintain 
conformity in the laws relating to Catholics throughout 
the Empire, they ought at least to have hesitated before 
passing a suicidal Act, which at the same time threatened 
the connection with England and their own existence as 
a Protestant legislature. For the admission of the Irish 
Catholics to the franchise would have given them before 
many years, if the Union had not intervened, a majority 
in this assembly, and made the Parliament of Ireland 
Catholic. It is vain to say that the denial of the right 
of sitting would have long delayed this consummation. 
The admission to the elective franchise does draw with 
it, though not immediately, the right of sitting; for 
how can it be urged that men are fit to elect and unfit 
to be elected ? The reservation of the right of sitting 
would have been done away with, nor are the steps 
in the progress hard to be discerned. The Catholics 
would not long have wanted representatives to help 
them to effect this. There were many nominal Protes- 
tants in Ireland, and many adventurers among the 
Protestants themselves, such as Tone and Russell, who 



would have offered to take the side of the Catholics, and 
obey their instructions. The counties would at once 
have been taken possession of, and with the county 
representation in the hands of that body, and its growing 
preponderance in the larger constituencies, the cities 
and towns would soon have followed the example of the 
counties. There would have been a bitter contest for 
the private or pocket - boroughs, for the Protestants 
would not have easily yielded up the last defences of 
their constitution and establishment. But the final 
result cannot be doubted, and the rioht of sitting in 
Parliament would have been extorted. The whole, 
or an immense majority of the representatives would 
then have been Catholic, and the legislative bodies in 
Great Britain and Ireland would have been differently 

There would then have been a Catholic Ireland united 
by a single tie, that of the Executive, to a Protestant 
Great Britain, whose Protestant monarch was bound by 
his coronation oath, as his Parliament was bound by 
theirs, to maintain the Protestant establishment and 
religion. The Catholics were attached to their own 
religion, and naturally adverse to a Protestant establish- 
ment. They could not be expected to be friendly to a 
constitution which was founded on that establishment. 
Dissensions, essential differences on fundamental ques- 
tions, must have arisen between the two countries, and 
the single tie must soon have been worn away. 

Dissensions would have arisen even if the Catholics 
had been prudent and moderate. But political prudence 
and moderation are not to be expected from a com- 


munity without any constitutional experience or training. 
The Catholics, founding their claims on what they 
observed in England, might have demanded a Catholic 
establishment and Catholic ascendency. They might, 
and probably would, have demanded the repeal of the 
Act of Settlement and the restoration of the forfeited 
lands. If they had done so, civil war could not have 
been avoided, and a rebellion, supported not by a part 
of the body as in 1798, but by the whole united force of 
the Catholics of Ireland, would have taxed the power of 
Great Britain, encumbered as she then was, to subdue it. 

Not content with the admission of the Catholics to 
the franchise, Grattan proposed a further scheme in 
1797, on the eve of the rebellion. 1 By this scheme 
Catholics were to be admitted to Parliament, and 
to all the great offices of State, in the same way 
as Protestants, and Ireland was to be divided, after 
the French model, into departments, each consisting 
of 5,000 houses, and returning two representatives, 
elected, not by freeholders, but by householders. By 
the side of the new arrangement the old county 
representation and qualification were to remain as they 
were. This system would have abolished the right 
of every city, town, and borough in Ireland, as 
such, to return representatives, and would have at 
once made the Parliament and Government of the 
country almost exclusively Catholic. We can only 
speculate on the mischief and danger which this 
plan, if it had been adopted, would have caused to 

1 It was Grattan's, though introduced by his friend, W. B. 
Ponsonby.— See a letter to Grattan, his Life, by his son, iv. 409. 



the Empire, for Parliament recoiled from further con- 
cession, and the bill was rejected by one hundred and 
seventy votes to thirty. 

This was the final blow to Grattan's waning 
authority, and all confidence in him was lost. 1 As his 
influence declined, his jealousy of the English connec- 
tion degenerated into positive hostility, and his Irish 
career, which had opened with such splendour in 1782, 
ended in general distrust and suspicion. 2 On the re- 
jection of his last proposal he seceded from Parliament 
and did not re -appear in it until his pre-arranged and 
theatrical entrance on the night of the 15th of January, 
1800. when he delivered the first of his anti -Union 
speeches. 3 His later Irish speeches and writings, for 
his tone was moderate and guarded in the British 
House of Commons, are the fertile sources of all the 
denunciations and invectives against England with 
which we have since become well acquainted. Nor 
should it ever be forgotten that he was the author 
and expounder of the meanest political doctrine ever 
preached to man, viz., that England's necessity is 
Ireland's opportunity ; a doctrine totally inconsistent 

1 From 1794 his followers in the House never exceeded thirty, 
sometimes falling to fourteen, and even seveD. 

2 His name was erased from their list of freeholders by the 
Corporations of Dublin and Derry, and by that of the Guild of 
Merchants in Dublin. His portrait was taken down from the walls 
of the University, and he was dismissed the Privy Council. — 
Grattan's Life, iv. 407. 

3 He entered the House supported by W. B. Ponsonby and 
Arthur Moore. At this time he was not yet fifty-four years of age, 
and he survived the Union twenty years. 




with any loyalty to the connection between the two 
countries. 1 

The truth is, the real Grattan is forgotten or unknown. 
A glorified figure, labelled with his name, stalks across 
the stage of Irish history and distracts our attention. 
To the orator, to the mere master of expression, the 
nobler title of statesman has been awarded by the super- 
stition of a noisy and ignorant multitude. 

1 " To maintain which (free trade) Ireland must continue in a state 
of armed preparation, dreading the approach of a general peace, and 
attributing all she holds dear to the calamitous condition of the 
British interest in every quarter of the globe." — 19th April, 1780. 
" The American war was the Irish harvest ; from that period, as from 
the lucky moment of your fate your commerce, constitution, and 
mind took form and vigour." — 12th Aug. 1785. 


Union Debates in the Irish Parliament, 1799. 

Kumours of a Legislative Union had long been 
current in Ireland before the year 1799. We have 
seen that even so far back as 1698 Molyneux longed 
for such an incorporation, but thought it a happiness 
which was not likely to fall to the lot of Ireland. In 
default of such a fortunate issue, he devoted himself 
to work out the legislative independence of his country. 

The Scotch Union appears to have affected powerfully 
the minds of leading Irishmen, and, from the time of 
this occurrence the idea of a union with Great Britain 
began to ripen and gather volume. We have seen that 
the Irish Parliament in 1703, and, again, about the time 
of the Scotch Union in 1707, desired and proposed a 
legislative incorporation with the Parliament of England, 
and all through, the eighteenth centurv a long line of 
distinguished Irishmen joined English thinkers and 
writers in recommending such a measure. In the early 
part of it, even Swift 1 thought that a union with Great 
Britain would be a gain to Ireland. But it was not 
till after the settlement of 1782 that the idea of a union 

1 See his tale, or parable, of The Injured Lady. 

G 2 



became more general. Some then thought that the 
concession of Irish Independence in that year without 
any international compact or treaty, whether political 
or commercial, to serve as the means of keeping the two 
countries united, rendered a Legislative Union indispens- 
able. 1 The subsequent conduct of the Irish Parliament 
on the Eegency question, 2 the unsettled state of the 
connection with Great Britain, and the rebellion had 
alarmed many. Ireland had suffered greatly from the 
violence and cruelty of both parties during the dis- 
turbances of 1798. Among thoughtful men a vague 
feeling of unrest prevailed, and a belief was spread that 
something was wanting to restore peace and quiet, and 
to put an end to the dissensions which troubled the 

But among the Catholics there was no doubt, for they 
had made up their minds that the salvation of Ireland 
could be wrought out only through a union with Great 
Britain. 3 They were well aware that emancipation 
would not be granted willingly by a Protestant Irish 
Parliament, and that it could only be allowed, if ever, 
at the expense of civil dissensions, and after a long 
contest. The declarations of the Catholics in favour 
of a union, harp on the idea that that measure alone 
would remove the baneful spirit of intolerance and 

1 See a remarkable letter, Cast. Corr. i. 436. 

2 Lord Downshire, a strong opponent of the Union in 1800, was 
of opinion that the English Ministry should have introduced a 
Union in 1789. 

3 See the letters and opinions of the Catholic Archbishops of 
Dublin and Tuam, of the Bishop of (brk, Dr. Bodkin, and others, 
quoted in Chapter VI. 



religious animosity. 1 The clergy and the kit)' of that 
body both looked forward to the Union as the means of 
obtaining emancipation, and putting an end to Protes- 
tant ascendency. But there was a third consideration 
which affected the minds of their clergy especially, and 
that was, they were thoroughly alarmed at the spread 
of French or republican sentiments and principles in 
Ireland. They knew well of the treatment which the 
Pope and their religion had received at the hands of 
the French army, and of the manner in which their 
cli inches had been despoiled in every country where the 
republican arms had prevailed. They had witnessed 
how the apostles of liberty, under the name of contribu- 
tions, had pillaged or profaned every building which 
was set apart for the worship of God or the performance 
of sacred duties by men and women who had devoted 
themselves to his service. To use the words of the 
Catholic Bishop, afterwards Archbishop Dillon : " they 
saw the Supreme Pastor of their Church not only re- 
viled and calumniated, but also stripped of that property 
which enabled him to display a generosity and benevo- 
lence worthy of his high station, and to propagate the 
gospel of Christ amongst the most remote nations of the 
globe."- And at the same time they saw England 

1 See the declarations of the Catholics of Waterford, Belfast Xews 
Letter, 23rd Aug. 1799; of those of Cork, ib. ; of those of the 
baronies of Tirawley, &c., ib. ; of Kilkenny, ib. 13th Sept. \ of 
Tipperary and Cahir, ib. , 3rd Sep. ; of Wexford, ib., 19th Xov. ; of 
Dundalk, ib , 15th Oct. ; of New Ross, ib., 29th Oct. 

- Address of Edward Dillon, Bishop of Kilmacduagh and Kile- 
nora, to the Catholic laity of said dioceses, 6th April, 1798 —Cast. 


taking the part and acting as the protector of the Holy 
See. This consideration, joined to the others which we 
have mentioned, affected them powerfully. Accordingly 
they set themselves to oppose the further spreading of 
French principles and the teachings of the United Irish- 
men among their flocks. As the principal objects of 
the United Irishmen were to effect a separation from 
Great Britain, and a union with France, the Catholic 
clergy threw their weight into the opposite scale, and 
gave their whole support to an incorporation of their 
country with Great Britain. 

On the other hand, the idea of a Legislative Union was 
to the majority of the Protestants distasteful. The lower 
orders among them were disposed to hostility to the 
measure by an apprehension that it would put an 
end to their political superiority, and reduce them to 
an equality with their Catholic fellow subjects. But 
the higher classes were influenced by nobler impulses 
and motives. To them the Union, at the first mention 
of it, and before its terms were made known, wore the 
appearance, not of an equal alliance with Great Britain, 
but of submission to a more powerful neighbour. The 
splendour and prestige of national independence blinded 
their eyes and prejudiced them against a cool considera- 
tion of the advantages of the proposal. The fear, too, 
that if Ireland were united to the more powerful 
kingdom, her interests would be neglected, exercised 
a strong influence on the minds of many. 1 Their 

Corr. i. 172. This prelate was appointed Archbishop of Tuam 
in 1799. 

1 It was this fear which, as he tells us, influenced Plunket. 



patriotism was alarmed, and they dreaded the measure 
as entailing injury to their country. These feelings 
were natural and laudable, but they diminished in 
strength as it became known that the conditions of 
Union were such as Ireland could accept without loss 
of her national dignity. Opposition to the measure 
was also weakened by the division of opinion which 
prevailed among those who were in favour of the 
legislative independence of Ireland. One party, hostile 
to the full emancipation of the Catholics, believed that 
they could maintain the independence of the country 
and, at the same time, retain disqualifying laws and 
Protestant ascendency. The other thought it was 
necessary to admit the Catholics to a full participation 
in the rights of citizenship, but this party saw no danger 
to their Church, their Protestant constitution, and the 
British connection, in the admission to Parliament of a 
body which was certainly opposed to the two former. 
It is evident that the policy of both parties was fraught 
with danger, and that the blindness of one was only 
equalled by the quixotic confidence of the other. It 
was impossible to preserve the independence of Ireland 
and to retain at the same time disqualifying laws. It 
was equally impossible to open Parliament to the 
Catholics without disturbing the fundamental principles 
of the Irish Constitution, and endangering the connection 
with Great Britain. There remained a tertium quid, 
viz., a Union, which would secure for ever Ireland's 
real legislative independence, and would make the 
emancipation of the Catholics feasible and safe. 

Such was the state of feeling in Ireland on this 



question, when in the spring of the year, 1798, a 
pamphlet 1 was published by Mr. Edward Cooke, the 
Under Secretary, recommending a Legislative Union 
between Great Britain and Ireland. So great was the 
interest excited by this publication that it reached a 
ninth edition before the end of the year, and as many 
as thirty pamphlets, some in favour of a Union, but the 
majority against it, appeared before the 1st of January, 
1 799. 2 The excitement was not limited to a war of 
words. On the 9th of December, a meeting of the 
Bar was convened to deliberate on the question of a 
Legislative Union, and a resolution was carried, by a 
large majority, to the effect that the proposal of such a 
measure was " an innovation highly dangerous and 
improper at the present juncture of the country." On 
the 17th of the same month a meeting of the Dublin 
Corporation and citizens, and on the following day one 
of the bankers and merchants of Dublin were held on 
the subject. At both it was unanimously agreed to 
oppose any proposal of a Union. About the same time 
Trinity College, and the gentry and freeholders of the 
county of Dublin held meetings respectively, and 
protested against a Union. The freeholders of the 
county of Westmeath likewise declared against such 
a measure. 

The Parliament met on the 22nd of January, 1799, 
Lord Cornwallis in his speech after alluding to the 
attempts which had been lately made to separate the 

1 Its title was, Arguments for and against a Union between Great 
Britain and Ireland. 

2 More than a hundred pamphlets on the Union still exist. 



two kingdoms recommended to the particular con- 
sideration of the two Houses the most effectual means 
of consolidating into one firm and lasting fabric the 
strength, power, and resources of the British Empire." 1 

In the Peers, Lord Glandore moved an address to 
the King which adopted the words of the Viceroy's 
speech, and in which the House undertook to give 
"their fullest attention to the consideration of the 
most effectual means of improving a connection which 
was essential to the common security of both kingdoms, 
and of consolidating into one firm and lasting fabric 
the power and resources of the British Empire." 

Lord Powerscourt moved an amendment which, while 
it expressed the wish of the House for a continuance of 
the connection with Great Britain, and a strong desire 
of improving it consistently with the freedom and in- 
dependence of Ireland, intimated a doubt of the 
competence of Parliament to effectuate an Incorporative 

Lord Bellamont was in favour of the amendment 
except that portion which called in question the com- 
petence of Parliament. He requested the mover to 

1 This paragraph of the speech was as follows : — "The unremit- 
ting industry with which our enemies persevere in their avowed 
designs of endeavouring to effect a separation of this kingdom from 
Great Britain must have engaged your particular attention ; and 
His Majesty commands me to express his anxious hope that this 
consideration, joined to the sentiment of mutual affection and 
common interest, may dispose the Parliaments in both kingdoms 
to provide the most effectual means of maintaining and improving 
a connection essential to their common security, and of consolidating 
as far as possible into one firm and lasting fabric the strength, the 
power, and the resources of the British Empire." 



withdraw that part. Lord Powerscourt was willing to 
do so, but the House would not allow him, as it was 
considered necessary to clear away all doubts as to the 
competence of Parliament. On a motion being made for 
leave to withdraw, a discussion arose and it was refused 
by forty-six votes to nineteen. 

Lord Bellamont, omitting the point of competence, 
then moved two amendments ; first, to expunge the 
words " and of consolidating as far as possible, into one 
firm and lasting fabric the strength, power, and resources 
of the British Empire." This amendment was negatived. 
He then moved that the following words should be 
inserted : "so far as may be consistent with the per- 
manent enjoyment, exercise, and tutelary vigilance of 
our resident and independent Parliament as established, 
acknowledged and recognised." This amendment pro- 
duced a debate, and this motion was also negatived. 
The question was then put on the original address, and 
it was carried by fifty-two votes to seventeen, a majority 
of thirty-five for Government. A general disposition 
to take into their consideration the question of a Union 
was thus shown to be entertained by two-thirds of the 
House. Fourteen of the minority protested. 1 The 
principal speakers were, for the Government, Lords 
Clare, Carle ton, and Yelverton ; for the Opposition, 
Lords Powerscourt, Bellamont, and Farnham. 

It is remarkable that though the Irish Peerage then con- 

1 Leinster, Granard, Belvedere, ArraD, Mountcashol, Charle- 
mont (Volunteer Charlemont), Bellamont, Kilkenny, Belmore, 
Powerscourt, De Yesci, William Down and Connor, Dunsaney, 



sisted of about 210 members, forty of whom were entirely 
unconnected with Ireland, not one voted in the majority 
on this occasion who was not interested in the country, 
either as a large landholder, law lord, or prelate. 

On the same clay a similar address was moved in the 
Commons by Lord Tyrone. This member and his 
seconder asked the House merelv to ©rive the ^reat and 
important matter which occupied the public mind, and 
was recommended by their Sovereign, a full and free 
consideration without pledging themselves to its support. 

Sir John Parnell said that although the question of a 
union was not specifically mentioned in the address, nor 
directly recommended to the House, it was necessary to 
" oppose it in limine " as being a simple question and 
not requiring any further discussion or information. He 
then entered upon a general argument against the 
principle of a Union. 

Lord Castlereagh was bound to say that although 
there was not any specific pledge to the measure in 
the address, yet it was clearly implied. He had no 
diflicultv in savin £ that the onlv means of settling 
the country in tranquillity and permanent connection 
with Great Britain were to be found in a Legislative 
L'nion. He intended at an early day to submit a 
special motion to the House. 

Mr. George Ponsonbv argued that Parliament was 
incompetent to subvert the Constitution. He then con- 
sidered the probable effects of the measure on the 
prosperity of the nation : and after appealing to the 
House to support Irish independence, he moved an 
amendment that the following words should be inserted 



in the address : " But maintaining the undoubted birth- 
right of the people of Ireland to have a free and 
independent legislature resident within that kingdom, 
as it was asserted by the Parliament of this kingdom in 
1782, and acknowledged and ratified by His Majesty and 
the Parliament of Great Britain npon the final adjust- 
ment of the discontents and jealousies then prevailing 
among His Majesty's loyal subjects of this country." 

A general debate of unprecedented length followed. 
Jt continued without intermission from four o'clock on 
Tuesday to one o'clock p.m. of the next day, an interval 
of twenty hours. Thirty spoke for, and forty- five 
against the Government. Excluding the Speaker and 
tellers, 2 1 2 members divided. The contest was so close 
that the amendment was lost by a majority of one only, 1 
105 voting for it, and 106 against it. When the amend- 
ment was negatived, the question was put for agreeing 
to the address as it had stood originally. This was 
carried by 107 to 105, a majority of two for the 

The principal speakers were : for the Government, 
Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Corry (the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer), the Law Officers, Mr., afterwards Sir William, 
Smith, Sir Jobn Blaquiere, Mr. Conolly, and Mr. 
McNaghten. Against, Sir Lawrence Parsons, George 
Ponsonby, Mr,, afterwards Sir Jonah, Barrington, George 
Ogle, and Mr., afterwards Lord, Plunket. 

The tone of the anti-Unionists in this debate was 
decidedly violent, even warlike. Many of them more 

1 The second reading of the first Reform Bill was carried by a 
majority of one, and that was a defection. 



than hinted at the ultima ratio, the sword. Plunket 
told the House that, if they passed an Act of Union, it 
would be a mere nullity, and no man would be bound to 
ol \ it. J. M. O'Donnell said, "I will oppose it in the 
field. I have made up my mind on my conduct. I 
shall live free or fall by cut six of some Hessian sabre, 
or some other foreign mercenary." Another O'Donnell, 
eldest son of Sir Neil O'Donnell, and Colonel of the 
Mayo Regiment, declared that, if the Union was carried, 
he should consider himself discharged from his 
allegiance, and that he should take the field at the 
head of his regiment to oppose the Union, and " to 
resist rebels in rich clothes with as much energy as he 
had- ever resisted rebels in rags." For this speech 
Colonel O'Donnell was dismissed his regiment. 1 

It was during this debate that Plunket made use of 
the words with which Cobbett afterwards used to twit 
him. " For my own part, I will resist it to the last 
gasp of my existence and with the last drop of my 
blood ; and, when I feel the hour of my dissolution 
approaching, 1 will, like the father of Hannibal, take 
my children to the altar and swear them to eternal 
hostility against the invaders of their country's freedom." 2 

1 This gentleman died before the meeting of Parliament in 1800. 

2 It is interesting to compare Plimket's sentiments as expressed 
in this speech with those which he afterwards entertained when his 
judgment was matured. " As an Irishman I opposed that Union ; 
as an Irishman I avow that I did so openly and boldly, nor am I 
now ashamed of what I then did. Eut though in my resistance to 
it I had been prepared to go the length of any man, I am now 
equally prepared to do all in my power to render it close and indis- 
soluble. One of the apprehensions on which my opposition was 


The tactics and the conduct of the Opposition deserve 
our attention. The only subject before them was a 
request of the Sovereign, transmitted through the Lord- 
Lieutenant, that they would take into their consideration 
the most effectual means of consolidating into one 
lasting fabric the strength and power of the British 
Empire. There was no specific proposition at this time 
laid before the House. Taking advantage of the parlia- 
mentary etiquette of the day, which regarded the Speech 
from the Throne as that of the minister only, they were 
resolved to refuse this request. The fact was, they 
thought the Government was unprepared, and they 
wished to commit the country to a premature opinion 
on the question of a Union. 

Lord Castlereagh was greatly disappointed with the 
result of the first debate. On the 21st of the month 
he had written to the Duke of Portland, " we reckon on 
from 1 60 to 1 70 with us, if they attend. Mr. Cooke 
thinks the Opposition can muster 100 certain, if they 

The address was reported on the 24th of January. 
The tenth paragraph was as follows : " The unremitting 
activity with which our enemies persevere in their 

founded, I am happy to say, has been disappointed by the event. I 
had been afraid that the interest of Ireland, on the abolition of her 
separate legislature, would come to be discussed in a hostile Parlia- 
ment. But I can now state — and I wish when I speak that I 
could be heard by the whole of Ireland — that during the time that 
I have sat in the united Parliament I have found every question 
that related to the interests or security of that country entertained 
with indulgence, and treated with the most deliberate regard." — 
Plunket's Life, ii. 104, 



avowed design of endeavouring to effect a separation of 
this kingdom from Great Britain must constantly en gaffe 
our most earnest attention. And as your Majesty has 
condescended to express an anxious hope that this cir- 
cumstance, joined to the sentiment of mutual affection 
and common interest, may dispose the Parliaments in 
both kingdoms to provide the most effectual means of 
maintaining and improving a connection essential to 
their common security, and of consolidating as far as 
possible into one firm and lasting fabric the strength, the 
power, and the resources of the British Empire, we shall 
not fail to oive the fullest consideration to a communica- 
tion of such momentous importance." 

On this paragraph being read, Sir Lawrence Parsons 
opposed it on the ground that it pledged the House 
indirectly to the principle of a Union, and moved that 
it should be expunged. A long and animated dis- 
cussion ensued, which lasted till six o'clock next 
morning, when a division took place. A hundred and 
nine voted for the omission of the paragraph and 
104 for its retention, or, including tellers, 1 1 1 
against 106 ■ — a majority of five against the Govern- 

The principal speakers were : For the Government, 
Lord Castlereagh, the Attorney-General, Sir John 
Blaquiere, Mr. Cony, and Mr. (afterwards Sir) William 
Smith ; against, Sir Lawrence Parsons, George Ponsonby, 
Mr. Dobbs, 1 Mr. Fitzgerald (late Prime Sergeant), and 
Mr. Tighe. 

1 This gentleman was a fanatic on prophecy, but on all other 
subjects he was an eloquent and sound-headed speaker and writer. 


The Opposition had, during the debate, received an 
accession of four friends, 1 who had arrived in town in 
time to vote on the second occasion. General Taylor 
changed his mind during the discussion. Three members 
who had voted for the Government the first night were 
absent from illness. 2 

After this second debate was over George Ponsonby 
attempted to pledge the House against any change of 
opinion, and to preclude a future discussion of the ques- 
tion of Union. As the members assembled in the lobby 
were preparing to separate, Mr. Ponsonby requested 
them to return to the House for a short time, as he had 
business of the utmost importance for their con- 
sideration. When they had done so he, without 
further preface, moved " That this House will ever 
maintain the undoubted birthright of Irishmen by 
preserving an independent Parliament of Lords and 
Commons resident in this kingdom, as stated and 
approved by His Majesty and the British Parliament in 
1782." This was moving as a substantive resolution the 
amendment which had been rejected the night before. 
Mr. Fortescue, an anti-Unionist, expressed his determina- 
tion to oppose the resolution ; Lord Cole, Mr. Acheson, 
Colonel Maxwell, J. C. Beresforcl, and Mr. French, 3 all 

Lecky justly describes him as " of an eminently pure, gentle, 
honourable, and benevolent character.' ' 

1 Hon. ¥m. O'Callaghan, Henry Stewart, Francis Savage, John 
King. — Corn. Corr. iii. 49. 

2 Sir Hercules Langrishe, Mr. Conolly, Mr. John Beresford. — 

3 This gentleman is said to have refused an earldom offered to 
him if he would support a union. His son was created Lord De 
Freyne. — Corn. Corr. iii. 50. 



strongly opposed to a Union, protested against it also. 
Mr. Ponsonby, seeing the House was against him, 
withdrew his motion. 

This, early as it was in the struggle, was the tu rnin g 
point of the whole contest, and the impression made by 
the withdrawal of the motion was profound. Five of 
the six who protested against the resolution were county 
members, and J. C. Beresford (the sixth) was one of the 
members for the city of Dublin. It was evident that 
many of the Opposition, and particularly the country 
gentlemen among them, did not object to the principle 
of a Union, but merely objected to its being brought 
forward at that particular juncture. Their disinclination 
to adopt Ponsonby's motion was a tacit assent to the 
future discussion of the subject. Indeed the few words 
which Mr. Fortescue uttered, and in which the others 
concurred, leave no doubt on this point. " He did not 
wish to bind himself for ever. Possible circumstances 
niidit hereafter occur which niioht render that measure 
expedient for the Empire, and he did not approve of any 
determination which for ever closed the doors against 
any future discussion." 1 And we know that the 
Latouehes, of whom there were four in this Parliament, 
and who all voted against the Government on this 
occasion, did so on the ground " that the time was not 
opportune.'" 2 

It was remarked that from the hour that this motion 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 50. Barrington, Rise and Fall, d-c, 422. 

2 " John Latouche is decided in his opposition as to the time of 
bringing the measure forward, and says that all his family will 
vote on that idea." — Lord Camden to Lord Castlereagh, Cast. 
Corr. ii. in. 



was withdrawn the Union gained strength. From this 
onwards we shall find either an unwillingness on the part 
of the Opposition to risk a division, or a decided majority 
for the Government. Barrington tells us that when 
Ponsonby proposed to withdraw his motion, " chagrin and 
disappointment had changed sides, and the friends of the 
Union, who a moment before had considered their measure 
as nearly extinguished, rose upon their success, retorted 
in their turn and opposed its being withdrawn." Sir 
Henry Cavendish keenly and sarcastically remarked that 
it was a retreat after a victory. 

It is worth our while at the end of these two debates 
to consider the position in which the House of Lords and 
the Commons stood. The Speech from the Throne had 
merely recommended to the consideration of Parliament 
the most effectual means of improving the connection 
with Great Britain, and of consolidating the power and 
resources of the British Empire. The Lords, by an 
overwhelming majority, had agreed to give " their fullest 
attention "to " considerations of such momentous im- 
portance." The Commons also on the 23rd of January 
undertook in nearly the same words to give their " fullest 
consideration to a communication of such momentous 
importance." But on the 24th they withdrew from this 
position, and expunged from their address the promise 
they had given the night before. Yet, at the same time, 
they refused, when Mr. Ponsonby's motion was made, to 
pledge themselves against a future consideration of the 
measure. This conduct of the Commons ought not to be 
attributed to inconstancy or capricious instability of 
opinion, but to the nature of the question. It was 



indeed a question of the most momentous kind, and on 
which any man might well entertain doubts. National 
dignity, the prestige and splendour of independence, and 
the fear of future neglect when incorporated with a more 
powerful kingdom, were on the one side. On the other, 
the prospect of allaying for ever internal dissensions, the 
assurance of security from external enemies, the hope of 
sharing the prosperity of Great Britain as an integral 
part of a mighty empire, and the consideration that 
emancipation might be granted to their fellow subjects 
without danger to the Constitution. It was no wonder 
that families were divided, though without rancour, on 
this great question. We find fathers and sons, 1 as well 
as brothers, 2 acting and voting on different sides. And, 
as the contest proceeded, many above all suspicion of 
their motives, were slowly converted, and espoused the 
side against which they had formerly acted and voted. 3 

During the second debate, Mr. William Smith 
delivered an extraordinarily able speech in favour of a- 
Union, which made a great impression on the House, and 
afterwards when printed, on the country. 4 This, and 

1 As Lord Leitrim and his son Lord Clements ; Lord Llandatf 
and his son Lord Mat hew. 

2 The Duke cf Leinster and his brother, Lord C. Fitzgerald : the 
brothers Skeffington, who represented the same town. 

3 As A. Ram, member for the county of Wexford, Dr. A. Browne, 
member for the University, Sir Hercules Langrishe, Richard Neville, 
Right Hon. David Latouche, Richard French, General Taylor, etc. 

4 This gentleman published three pamphlets on the L T nion. This 
speech was one : the other two were letters to Foster, the Speaker, 
and to Grattan. The study of these publications is absolutely in- 
dispensable to the comprehension cf the question of union. The 

n 2 


Lord Clare's subsequent speech on the ioth of February, 
I 800, were the best argumentative speeches during the 
debates on the Union. Piunket's were too full of decla- 
mation, and not comparable to those he afterwards made 
in the Imperial Parliament on Catholic emancipation. 

The only riot which took place in Ireland during the 
long discussion of the Union occurred on the evening 
when the Government was defeated. There was a 
general illumination in Dublin. The houses of the 
Unionists were attacked, and some Members of Parlia- 
ment ill-treated. The military were called out, and 
several persons unfortunately lost their lives. 

On the 28th of January Lord Castlereagh moved for 
an adjournment to the 7th of February, in order that the 
debates in the British Parliament should be made 
known and considered in Ireland. Sir John Parnell 
opposed the motion, but the Opposition did not venture 
on a division, and the House was adjourned to the 
day named. 

The opponents of the Union were resolved to exert 
their utmost efforts to procure such a parliamentary 
pledge for the maintenance of the existing constitution 
as would oblige the Government finally to relinquish the 
scheme, though the House had declined to give such a 
pledge on the 24th of January. Accordingly Lord 
Corry on the 15th of February moved that the House 
should resolve itself into a general Committee on the 

author was a member of a distinguished legal family. He was the 
son of Baron Smith, and was himself subsequently appointed a 
Baron of the Exchequer. He was father of the late T. B.C. Smith, 
Master of the Rolls. 


state of the nation, and consider an address to the King, 
declaring a separate independent Parliament as essential 
to the interest and prosperity of Ireland. A division 
took place, when the numbers were 103 for the 
motion, against it 123, a majority of twenty for the 

This was the first decided success of the Government. 
The division was a great disappointment to the Oppo- 
sition, who had hoped to carry the address. The tone of 
the debate was temperate, and some humorous speeches 
were delivered. The country gentlemen had quieted 
down. The most animated speaker was George Pon- 
sonby ; the representative of a family which had long 
exercised great influence. 1 Parsons, Parnell, and Plun- 
ket, did not speak. On the following day Lord 
Corn wal lis wrote to the Duke of Portland : ' : The temper 
of the House was moderate ; the country gentlemen all 
asserted their disposition to support Government, except 
upon the measure of Union ; and in general they wished 
it to be understood that the address was by no means 
designed to pledge the House irrevocably against a 
Union, if the circumstances of the kingdom should 
materially alter." 2 

One of the strongest arguments for a Union was 
derived from the possibility that two independent legis- 
latures might take different views on any international 
question. Pitt had relied on this possibility in his 
speech in the British Parliament, recommending an in- 
corporation of the two legislatures. The Unionists 
urged this reason, and pointed, as an illustration, to the 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 324. 2 lb. in. 64. 


conduct of the Irish Parliament on the Regency question. 
To deprive their opponents of this argument, the anti- 
Unionists brought forward a Regency Bill, which pro- 
vided that in all cases, the regal powers of the Empire 
should be administered by the same person in Ireland as 
exercised such powers in Great Britain, and that the 
person exercising these powers should be subject to the 
same restrictions and limitations in both kingdoms. 
This was indeed eating the leek. The Opposition were 
willing to make what was really a legislative apology for 
the action which the Irish Parliament had taken in 1789, 
When the Bill was committed Lord Castlereagh pointed 
out its inadequacy, that it only provided for one of 
the cases in which a difference of opinion might arise, 
and that it was necessary to dry up for ever the source 
of such international disagreements, that the cases of 
war, treaties with foreign powers, and other matters, 
might lead to variance of decision, and that these 
emergencies were not provided for in any way by the 

On the 1 1 th of April, the House resolved itself into a 
Committee in order to consider this Bill. The Speaker, 
Mr. Foster, took advantage of this circumstance to deliver 
his sentiments against a Union in a speech of four 
hours. 1 A debate followed, in which that measure was 
the principal topic. Little was said about the Bill which 
was before the Committee. When the Bill was discussed 
again on the 18th of April, the majority did not think it 
provided an adequate remedy for the evils of parlia- 

1 In this debate Mr. Foster described Pitt's speech, recommending 
a union, in the British Parliament, as a "paltry production." 



mcntary variance which it was intended to remove. 
It was postponed to the ist of August, and then 

The proposal of the Regency Bill was of great service 
to the cause of the Union. The Bill was brought forward 
to diminish the necessity of a Union by removing the 
possibility of any difference between the Parliaments of 
the two kino-doms. Bv bringing it forward the anti- 
Unionists admitted the dangers of the connection as it 
then stood ; by dropping it they confessed their inability 
to remove those dangers, unless they adopted a Union 
and renounced the settlement of 1782. 

A debate took place on the 1 5th of May. A question 
was asked respecting the refusal of the Escheatorship of 
Minister, the equivalent in Ireland of the Chiltern 
Hundreds, to Colonel Cole. The subject of the Union 
was dragged into the discussion, and some violent 
speeches were made. Plunket, George Ponsonby, Mr. 
Dobbs and others took part in the debate. The motion 
for an adjournment to the ist of June was carried in a 
thin House by Government, the voting being forty-seven 
to thirty-two. This was the last discussion on the Union 
during this year, the House being subsequently prorogued 
to the 15th of January, 1S00. 

At this time Grattan was not in Parliament. He took 
his seat, as one of the members for Wicklow, on the 
night of the 15th of January following, or rather on the 
morning of the 1 6th. 

Less than four months had elapsed since the opening 
of Parliament, and it is evident that the opponents of a 
Union had lost ground. There was a steady phalanx 


against them in the Lords that had spoken with no 
uncertain voice on the subject. The Government were 
unprepared when the anti-Unionists prematurely sprung 
the discussion on them in the Commons, for no specific 
proposal had been made, and the Speech from the Throne 
had merely invited them to consider the most effectual 
means of uniting more closely the two kingdoms. The 
opponents of the Union were beaten in the first contest. 
They succeeded in the second. But this was a Pyrrhic 
victory, for on the same night the most considerable 
portion of their party refused to pledge themselves 
against the future consideration of the measure. On the 
28th of January they did not venture to try their 
strength on Lord Castlereagh's motion for an adjourn- 
ment. On the 15th of February they united all their 
forces to carry Lord Corry's motion for a general 
Committee on the state of the nation, and an address 
declaring that a separate Parliament was essential to the 
prosperity of Ireland, and they were defeated by the 
decided majority of twenty. On the nth of April the 
proposal of a Eegency Bill told heavily against them, 
inasmuch as it admitted the flaw in the connection be- 
tween the two countries ; the dropping of it confessed 
the inability of the anti- Unionists to cure that flaw 
without a Union. 

The fact was that the opponents of the L T nion 
were a composite and discordant party, united only 
in their opposition to that measure. Many of them, 
particularly their leaders— as Mr. Foster, Sir John 
Parnell, the Eight Honourable George Ogle, the Duke 
of Leinster, Lords Charlemont, Farnham, and Ennis- 



killen — were opposed to the full emancipation of the 
Catholics and their admission to Parliament. The 
Government was at one time afraid that the Opposition 
would tempt the Catholics to array themselves against 
the Union by a motion in favour of emancipation, 1 and 
such an inducement was offered to that body by some 
of the anti-Unionists who were least indisposed against 
them.' 2 The Union could not have been carried against 
the wishes of the Catholics. The anti- Unionists knew 
this well, and yet they never ventured, as a body, 
to bring forward the question of emancipation, for 
they were well aware that such a proposal would have 
split their party in two. Nor were they ever able, 
durino; the long; contest of the Union, to induce the 
Catholics to join them in their opposition to that 
measure. The Catholics sympathised much more 
strongly with the English Government than with 
the Irish Parliament, 3 and distrusted an assembly 
which was filled with their enemies. As their leaders 
— the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and Lords Fingall 
aud Kenmare — told Lord Cornwallis, they did not 
think the Irish Parliament capable of entering into 
a cool' and dispassionate consideration of their claims, 
and put all their trust in the hoped-for united 
Parliament, 4 The principal men among them believed 
that it was under the pressure of the anti-Catholic 
party that the English Cabinet had yielded upon 
che question of Lord Fitzwilliam's recall. " This 
consideration," says Mr. Plunket, "will help to explain 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 53. 2 lb. iii. 52. 

3 Lecky, iv. 462. 4 Corn. Corr. iii. 8, 


the ease with which Lord Cornwallis prevailed with the 
Roman Catholic Episcopacy to lend him their assistance 
in carrying the Union, without any distinct assurance 
on his part that the terms which they demanded would 
be conceded." 2 

1 Life of Lord Plunket, i. 279. 


Sentiments of the Protestant community on a Union. — The 
measure at first disapproved of. — Change of opinion in its favour. — 
Declarations and petitions for and against it. — Bribery by the 
Opposition. — Attempts of the anti-Unionists to excite the country 
against the Union. 

For upwards of eighty years the maligners of the 
Irish Union have adopted one system of calumny 
— for line of argument it cannot be called. They 
take a fact here and a fact there ; an extract from 
a letter here and another there ; they then carefully 
piece them together. If the patchwork be deemed 
insufficient, they fill up the pattern with unscrupulous 
declamation and glaring misrepresentation. Aware 
that, at first and before its terms were made known, 
the Union was unpopular with the majority of 
Protestants, the aristocratic proprietors of boroughs, 
and the members of the smaller corporations — of 
which there were more than eighty — they represent the 
Union as having been passed against the will of the 
nation. These critics carefully avoid the development 
of events and the chronological order of occurrences. 
They mix up what ought to be kept separate, and 
laboriously conceal the fact that during the long 


discussion of the measure, the country was converted 
in its favour — a conversion so striking and remarkable 
that even the Opposition were obliged to admit it, 
for in the debates of 1800 one of the violent members 
of the anti-Unionist party complained in the House 
of Commons " that the people had deserted them." 1 

The principal opponents of the Irish Union were — ■ 
the inhabitants of Dublin, who feared that their city 
would be reduced from a capital to a provincial town ; 
the borough proprietors and their numerous dependants ; 
the official classes, who were wedded to the existing 
system of things ; the lawyers, who dreaded the 
removal of the law courts to London ; and the 
corporations of the smaller boroughs, who foresaw 
their own dissolution, and the loss of their influence. 
Of these opponents, the barristers were the noisiest. 
They had always considered a seat in the legislature 
as the road to preferment, and there were fifty of 
them in the last Parliament of Ireland. 2 

The Orangemen declined to act as a body in the 
discussion of the Union. Their Grand Master, Thomas 
Verner, generally known as the Prince of Orange, 
advised them, while exercising their individual rights 
as Members of Parliament, grand jurors, freeholders 
or burgesses, to abstain from taking any part as a 
distinct society. After a few mutinies in some lodges, 
the Orangemen acquiesced in this decision, and 
remained neutral as a body during the contest. 3 

1 Com. Corr. iii. 249. 2 lb. St. 

3 On one occasion thirty-two lodges disapproved of Mr. Veroer's 
advice, but the good sense of the Society prevailed. — Belf. News 
Letter, March 4th, 1800. 


We have already seen that the first proposal of a 
Union was unfavourably received by the majority of the 
Protestants. Before the ist of February, 1799, and there- 
fore before its terms and conditions had become known 
throughout Ireland, the counties of Louth, Tyrone, 
Cavan, Clare, Tipperary, and Dublin, the cities of Dublin 
and Gal way, and the University of Dublin, held meet- 
ings and came to resolutions adverse to a Union. But 
as the terms leaked out, and it transpired that the 
interests of the different bodies likely to be affected by 
the Union would be tenderly dealt with, the opinion of 
the public veered round steadily in its favour. As the 
opposition to the measure diminished throughout the 
country, the majority in Parliament in its favour 
regularly increased. Our readers will remember that it 
was on Lord Corry's motion to take into consideration 
the state of the nation on the 15th of February, 1799, 
that the Government obtained their first decided success 
of a majority of twenty. Nor was it long until signs of 
a change of opinion manifested themselves out of Parlia- 
ment. As early as March 28th, 1799, Lord Cornwallis, 
who had been greatly discouraged by the division of the 
24th of January, writes : " The opinion of the loyal part of 
the public is, from everything that I can learn, changing 
fast in favour of the Union." 1 And the editor of his 
correspondence tells us that " this change of feeling in 
regard to the Union was caused principally by its having 
transpired that material alterations would be made in the 
details of the measure." On the following day Lord 
Cornwallis wrote again, " Much good effect has resulted 
1 Com. Corr. iii. 8r. 


from the discussion in England, and I have reason to 
believe that a change of sentiment is gradually diffusing 
itself." 1 On the last day of the same month Colonel 
Littlehales informs Lord Donoughmore, who had written 
to him respecting the change of opinion which his lord- 
ship had observed in his part of the country — Tipperary, 
" The alteration in the minds of many is obvious in other 
parts of the kingdom, and is a confirmation of its 
wisdom and justice. It is by reflection only that its 
value can be really estimated." 2 In April, Lord Castle- 
reagh tells the Duke of Portland, " I can confidently assure 
your Grace that the measure of Union is making its way 
in proportion as it is canvassed and understood." 3 On 
the 5th of June Lord Altamont writes from Sligo, 
" I have found to my infinite surprise that the county 
and town of Sligo, without the slightest interference, 
and against all their representatives, are decided friends 
of the Union. I know of no part of Ireland where the 
unbiassed mind of the public is so generally with it. 
Eoscommon is against it; but for that, the bulk, or 
indeed, the entire of the province, might be considered 
as pledged to the measure, or ready to be so." 4 We 
shall shortly see that a few months later the county of 
Eoscommon also declared for the Union, so that when 
Parliament met in the following January the province of 
Connaught was pledged to that measure. On the 22 nd 
of June Lord Cornwallis informs the Duke of Portland, 
ce Within the last month I think I am justified in stating 
to your Grace that we have sensibly gained strength." 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 83. 2 lb. 84. 

3 Cast. Corr. ii. 274. 4 lb. ii. 327. 



In this letter lie also tells the Duke that u Galway, 
King's County, Mayo, and Kerry, have already come 
forward ; Cork, Mayo, and Kerry, with a unanimity un- 
exampled on any public measure. The temper of Dublin 
remains strongly adverse, but not in the degree it did. 
Some of the commercial body have altered their senti- 
ments." 1 In August he writes again to the Duke, " The 
accession of Tipperary to those counties before declared 
gives us the entire province of Munster ; and its weight 
will be the more authoritative, as it is an inland county, 
and not decided merely by commercial prospects." 2 

In the same month Mr. Dawson writes from the 
county of Down, " I find men from the counties of Cavan 
and Monaghan here, with whom I talked much in the 
beginning of July in their own counties, and found them 
much against the measure. I have great satisfaction in 
being able to tell you that they are much brought about, 
and that I consider them as gained." 3 In September, 
Dr. Moylan, Catholic Bishop of Cork, writes from Dublin 
to Sir J. C. Hippesley, " I am happy to tell you it (the 
Union) is working its way and daily gaining ground on 
the public opinion. Several counties which appeared 
most averse to it have now declared for it, and 
I have no doubt but with the blessing of Cod it 
will be effected, notwithstanding the violent opposition 
of Mr. Foster and his party, who will strain every nerve 
and move heaven and earth to prevent its succeeding. 
In this city, where the outcry against it has been so 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 336. 2 lb. ii. 372. 

3 Mr. Dawson to Mr. Marshall, Cast. Corr. ii. 374. 



very violent, it is becoming every day less unpopular." 1 
In the same month Mr. Marsden writes to Lord Castle- 
reagh, then absent in London, " I have everything 
encouraging to pronounce on the progress which union 
makes. It is going on silently and persuasively, and it 
is by no means desirable that this progression should be 
disturbed for some time to come." 2 On the 9th of 
September Lord Waterford writes : " I do not hesitate in 
pronouncing that the opinion of the county and city of 
Waterford is nearly unanimous in favour of union." 3 On 
the 22nd Lord Cornwallis writes to his friend, General 
Eoss : " We were of opinion that the immediate meeting of 
Parliament might put to some hazard the success of our 
great measure of Union which is now daily gaining ground 
as well in, as out of Parliament." 4 On the 12th of 
October, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin writes to 
Mr. Marshall : " You will observe by our public 
papers that the question of Union is daily gaining 
ground." 5 In November, Lord Cornwallis informs his 
friend again: "The Union is, I trust, making progress. 
The great body of the people in general, and of the 
Catholics in particular, are decidedly for it, and from 
what I hear of the liberal disposition of the British 
Government, I think if we can once bring the Parlia- 
ment of Ireland to enter into a discussion of the terms, 
it cannot fail of success." 6 In January, 1800, Mr. 
Bradshaw writes from Belfast : " Until very lately Union 
was a subject very little talked about, less understood. 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 399. 2 lb. ii. 406. 

3 lb. ii. 394. 4 Corn. Corr. iii. 133. 

5 Cast. Corr. ii. 418. 6 Com. Corr. iii. 143. 



It has now become a very general topic, and although 
the great majority approve of it, we have some dissen- 
tients. It is pretty nearly a general wish that this great 
object maybe speedily settled, as the most certain means 
of for ever quieting the unhappy distractions that have 
too long tormented this country, as well as procuring 
for us benefits highly essential both to our commerce 
and constitution." 1 

Lord Cornwallis had long been of opinion that the 
opponents of the Union were chiefly those who had an 
immediate and private interest in the maintenance of 
the local Parliament, and that the opposition to that 
measure proceeded for the most part from the borough 
proprietors and the persons throughout the country whose 
influence depended on the existence of the smaller 
corporations. He resolved to learn for himself the 
sentiments of the people on the subject. 2 He there- 
fore determined to pay visits to the south and north, 
and observe the disposition of the country. Accordingly 
in July and August, 1799, he made a short tour 
through the counties of Kilkenny, Cork, Waterford, and 
Tipperary. The result proved the accuracy of his judg- 
ment, and the cities and towns through which he passed 
vied with each other in presenting addresses in favour 
of the Union. 

1 Cast. Corr. iii. 224. 

2 "This tour will enable me to speak with more precision of the 
state of the public mind on the Union than I have hitherto been 
able to do. My observations have as yet been altogether confined 
to Dublin, which is certainly the point of resistance." — Cast. Corr. 




In Kilkenny lie received two addresses " expressive 
of the most earnest desire for a union : n 

From the Catholic inhabitants of the city. 
From the Corporation. 

In Cork he received seven addressess in favour of the 
measure : 

From the Catholic inhabitants of the city. 2 
From the High Sheriff and Grand Jury of the 
county. 3 

From the High Sheriffs and Grand Jury of the 
city. 4 

From the Protestant Bishop and Clergy of the 

dioceses of Cork and Boss. 5 
From the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Common Council 

of the city. 6 

From the Provost, Burgesses, and Freemen of 
Bandon. 7 

From the Mayor, Burgesses, and Commonalty of 
Youghal 8 

In Limerick he received two addresses : 

One from the Merchants and Traders of the 
city. 9 

One from the Protestant Bishop and Clergy of 
the city. 10 

1 Com. Corr. iii. 119. 

2 Advert. Belfast News Letter 23rd August. 3 lb. 27th Aug. 
4 lb. 5 lb. 6 lb. 7 lb. Sep. 3rd. 

8 lb. lb. 23rd Aug. 10 lb. 



Iii Waterford he received three addresses : 

One from the Noblemen, Clergy, Gentry, and 

inhabitants of the county. 1 
One from the Mayor, Sheriffs, *md citizens of the 

city. 2 

One from the Protestant Clergy resident in the 
city. 5 

In Tipperary he received two addresses : 

One from the Catholic inhabitants of Tipperary 
and Cahir. 4 

One from the Freemen and inhabitants of Clon- 
mel, the county town and its neighbourhood. 5 
At the same time the nobility, gentry, clergy, and 
freeholders of this county drew up another address to 
His Majesty in favour of the Union. 6 

During this southern tour, or shortly afterwards, Lord 
Cornwallis also received similar addresses from : 

The Catholic inhabitants of AVexford and its 
vicinity. 7 

The Catholic inhabitants of Xew Eoss and its 

neighbourhood. 8 
The Catholics of the county Longford. 9 
The Catholic Clergy of the diocese of Elphin 

and county of Koscommon. 10 
The inhabitants of Sligo. 11 
The inhabitants of Kinsale. 12 

I Advert. Belfast News Letter, 27 th Aug. 2 lb. 3 lb. 

4 lb. 3rd Sept, 5 lb. 6 lb. 10th Sep. 7 lb. 19th JSTov. 
s lb. 15th Nov. 9 lb. 1st Oct. 10 lb. 10th Jan. 1800. 

II lb. 31st Jan. 12 lb. 29th Nov. 


Lord Cornwallis was well satisfied with the results of 
his southern journey, and thus expresses his feelings : "I 
returned to town on Friday from my southern tour, and 
am happy to have it in my power to convey to your 
Grace the most satisfactory accounts of that part of the 
kingdom, as well in point of tranquillity as in general 
good disposition towards the Government and cordial 
approbation of the measure of Union. This sentiment 
is confined to no particular class or description of men ; 
but equally pervades both the Catholic and Protestant 
bodies, and I was much gratified in observing that those 
feelings which originated with the higher orders have, 
in a great degree, extended themselves to the body 
of the people. Were the Commons of Ireland as 
naturally connected with the people as they are in 
England, and as liable to receive their impressions, 
with the prospects we have out of doors I should feel 
that the question was, in a great degree, carried. But your 
Grace is so well acquainted with the constitution of the 
assembly in which this question is to be prosecuted, and 
must be aware how anxiously personal objects will be 
connected with this measure, which goes to new-model 
the public consequence of every man in Parliament, and 
to diminish the authority of the most powerful, that 
your Grace will feel, however advantageous it is for the 
Government to carry the public sentiment with it. that 
distinct interests are there to be encountered which will 
require all the exertions and all the means of Government 
to overcome, and which may still very much delay and 
impede the accomplishment of this great settlement." 1 

1 Com. Corr. iii. 121. 



111 the early part of October, Lord Cornwallis pro- 
ceeded to the north, where his experience was equally 
satisfactory. During his northern journey he received 
addresses in favour of the Union from the following 
towns and public bodies : — 

From the Catholic inhabitants of Dundalk. 1 
From the Corporation of the same town. 2 
From the Corporation of Belfast. 3 
From the electors and principal inhabitants of 
Antrim. 4 

From the Sovereign and Corporation of Armagh. 5 
From the Protestant Bishop and Clergy of the 

diocese of Dromore. 6 
From the Corporation of Coleraine. 7 
From the Xoblemen, Clergy, and freeholders of 

the county of Londonderry. 8 
From the Mayor, Community and citizens of the 

city of Londonderry. 9 
From the Corporation and principal inhabitants 

of Newtownlimavady. 10 
From the Warden and inhabitants of Lifford. 11 
From the Merchants and inhabitants of the 

town and neighbourhood of Castlefinn. 12 
From the Provost, Corporation and inhabitants 

of Strabane. 13 
From the Provost, Grand Jury and Corporation 

of Monaghan. 14 

1 Belfast News Letter, 15th Oct. 2 lb. 

3 lb. nth Oct. * lb. 5 lb. 15th Oct. 6 lb. 

• lb. 29th Oct. 8 lb. 25 th Oct. ~ 9 lb. 10 lb. 

u lb. 29th Oct, 12 lb. 13 lb. istNov. " lb. 15th Nov. 


Lord Cornwallis gives us his opinion of the manner 
in which he was received in the north. " My northern 
tour has answered my most sanguine expectations. At 
Dundalk, the first place that I visited, exclusive of the 
address from the Corporation, which is under the in- 
fluence of Lord Eoden, I received an unasked and un- 
sought for address from the Eoman Catholic inhabitants 
in favour of the LTnion. I did not enter the county of 
Down, lest that proud leviathan, Lord Downshife, should 
call it a declaration of war, but I was received with 
open arms at Belfast, and throughout the counties of 
Antrim and Derry the cry for a union is almost 
unanimous." 1 

At the same time, he writes to the Duke of Portland. 
" At Antrim, Coleraine, Newtownlimavady, and all 
the places through which I passed, addresses were 
presented, and the words 'principal inhabitants' were 
always inserted as well as ' the Corporation.' At Lon- 
donderry, my reception was cordial and flattering beyond 
expression ; the county as well as the city addressed ; 
the town was illuminated, and ' success to the Union ' 
resounded from every quarter/' 2 

The cases of the towns of Wexford and Gal way are 
remarkable, and illustrate the change of opinion which 
had come over the country. Richard Nevill had repre- 
sented Wexford for twenty-eight years. In January, 
1799, he had voted against the consideration of the 
Union. The town, we are told, " was completely 
under the influence of Richard Nevill and a few 

Corn. Corr. iii. 140. 

2 lb. 



others." 1 Yet, in January, 1800, a meeting of the 
freeholders, who amounted to between 800 and 900/ 
was held in favour of the Union, and this gentleman 
was unanimously requested to use "his utmost exertions 
to have it carried into immediate execution on terms 
impartial, liberal and honourable." Mr. Nevill took the 
hint, and voted for the measure in 1800. 3 

The city of Gal way affords even a more striking 
example of this change of opinion. In January, 1799, 
the town had declared explicitly against a union. 
Plowden tells us, " the resolutions of a meeting at 
Galway were particularly strong; reprobating the 
attempts of the Unionists as unconstitutional and 
arbitrary ; denying the power of the representatives of 
the people to vote away the independence of the 
realm, condemning the transfer of the right of legisla- 
tion to any foreign country without the general con- 
sent of the people as equivalent to the dissolution of 
the existing government, and as a procedure which from 
its tendency to anarchy ought to be resisted ; and 
stigmatising as enemies to their country all the sup- 
porters of such a measure." 4 

Galway had a large constituency, the voters amount- 
ing to between 1,500 and 2, 000. 5 On the 2nd of 

1 Report on the Representation, presented to the Volunteer Con- 
vention, Dublin, 1784. 2 lb. 

3 See the Address, Belfast News Letter, 17th Jan. 1800. 

4 Revieio of the State of Ireland, vol. ii., pt. ii., 824. 

5 In 1784, before the admission of the Catholics to the franchise, 
the voters numbered between 500 and 600. In 1829 no change in 
the law having been made since 1793, they numbered 2,300.— See 
Lynch' s Law of Elections in Ireland. 



August, 1 799, a meeting of the electors and inhabitants 
was held, at which the town retracted its former opinion. 
The following resolution was at this meeting unani- 
mously passed, " That an incorporative union of the 
legislatures of the two countries (though that measure, 
when it was first presented to our view, and before the 
terms upon which it was proposed to be effected were 
disclosed, impressed itself rather unfavourably upon 
some of our minds) is, in our opinion, upon mature and 
deliberative consideration, the system of relation which 
of every other is the best fitted to secure to both 
countries all the blessings of connection, and to protect 
them against all the evils of separation." 1 

Nor were the counties behind the towns in manifest- 
ing this change of opinion. In June, 1799, Cork, Kerry, 
Mayo, King's County, and Gal way declared for the 
Union, " Cork, Mayo, and Kerry with unanimity un- 
exampled on any public measure." 2 Gal way county in 
a " meeting the fullest ever known," 3 declared for the 
Union, and instructed its members to vote for that 
measure. In August, the counties of Tipperary, Water- 
ford and AVexford ; in September, Londonderry, 
Limerick and Antrim ; in November, Tyrone and 
Clare; in December, Donegal; in January, 1800, 
Armagh, Roscommon and Kilkenny ; in February, 
Downshire, Monaghan, Leitrim and Meath ; in March, 

1 Belfast News Letter, 6 tli Sep. 1799. 

2 Lord Comwallis to Duke of Portland.— Cast. Corr. ii. 336. 

3 " We have succeeded at a county meeting of Gal way, the fullest 
ever known, and have carried an address and instructions to the 
ministers." — Corn. Corr. iii. 129. 


Westmeath. The Catholic freeholders and inhabitants 
of the counties of Kilkenny, Longford, Leitrim and 
Roscommon, separately addressed or declared for the 
Union. But a more particular consideration of the 
support which the Catholics gave to the Union is re- 
served for the next chapter. 1 

On the 5th of February, 1800, and before some of the 
counties had declared for the measure, Lord Castlereagh 
summed up in the House of Commons the amount of 
support which the Union had received throughout the 
country. " The great body of the landed property of 
Ireland was friendly to the principle, and the two houses 
of Parliament particularly ; three-fourths of the landed 
property were amongst its supporters ; nineteen counties, 
live-sevenths of Ireland in superficial extent had come 
forward in its support. He did not say that these 
counties were unanimous in approving the measure ; 
complete unanimity was not to be hoped upon any great 
political question ; but he would say a very great majority 
of those counties favoured the measure. All the great 
commercial towns, save Dublin and Drogheda, had de- 
clared -in favour of it."' 2 In a subsequent debate, he 
stated that seventy-four declarations had been made in 
favour of a Union by public bodies ; that nineteen of 
them proceeded from the freeholders of counties, and 
many of the remainder from the chief towns and cor- 
porations. 3 We have seen that this was an under- 
estimate, that twenty-two counties had declared for the 

1 The declarations of the counties are to be found as advertise- 
ments in the Belfast News Letter, in the different months. 

2 Pari. Deb. , Moore, Dubliu, 1800. 3 Corn. Corr. iii. 203. 


Union, and if we add to these the declarations of the 
Catholic freeholders of the counties of Kilkenny, Long- 
ford, Leitrim, and Eoscommon, we find twenty-six 
declarations from the freeholders of counties. Sub- 
sequently, on the 2nd of April, Lord Castlereagh in a 
letter to the Under-Secretary of State, sent " an abstract 
of the best analysis we have been able to make of the 
annual landed income of the supporters and opposers of 
union in the two Houses of Parliament. I believe the 
whole is under estimated." 1 



Ptesident Peers 






Commoners . . . 




3 2 9>5°° 

Absentee Peers 




■£35 8 >5°o 

On the 4th of March, 1800, George Ponsonby stated 
in the House that the people of Ireland were opposed to 
the Union, and that the anti-Union petitions on the 
table proved this. He went on to say that petitions 
against that measure had been received from twenty- six 
counties and several great towns, and also from the 
corporation and guilds of the metropolis. Petitions to 
Parliament are often spontaneous, and really express the 
wishes of the people. They also may be, and often are, 
concocted or worked up by able and efficient wire- 
pullers. It is worth our while to examine these petitions 

1 Com. Corr. iii 




on which Mr. Ponsouby relied, and to see to what class 
they belong. They are still to be read in the journals of 
the Commons. 

There are fifty-four petitions in these journals for the 
year 1800. which are entitled, "Against a Union," and 
only two in its favour. There are none for 1799, and 
none were presented to the House of Lords. The anti- 
Unionists avoided the Upper House, where there was a 
strong majority against them, and naturally preferred to 
direct their petitions to the Commons, where their 
recognised leader was Speaker, and where they had a 
strong and compaet body in their favour. The Unionists 
just as naturally avoided the Commons, and preferred to 
make their sentiments known in county declarations, or 
in addresses to the Lord-Lieutenant or the King. 

When we come to examine these fifty-four petitions, 
we find that five of them are not petitions against the 
Union at all, but merely prayers for compensation " in 
the event of a union." Three are from individuals or 
commercial firms, and may be dismissed as not being 
representative of the public voice. AVe shall consider 
the forty-six which remain. Of these, eight come from 
Dublin alone : one from the City Corporation, and seven 
from guilds, as booksellers, carpenters, bricklayers, &c. 
Thirty-eight proceed from twenty-five counties and 
eleven towns, Kilkenny and Drogheda sending in two 
each. 1 

All these forty-six petitions arrived as it were in a 
batch. They were presented between the 4th of Feb- 
ruary, 1800, and the :4th of the following month. The 

1 Xot 26 counties, as Mr. Ponsonby stated. 


Parliament of 1799 had risen, and the Lord-Lieutenant 
had made his parting speech on the 1st of June in that 
year. Seven months elapse, during which we hear of no 
petitions or addresses to the King or the Viceroy against a 
Union. It is true that the Sovereign had recommended 
the measure to the consideration of the Irish Parliament, 
but this was no reason why His Majesty should be left in 
ignorance of what, the Opposition alleged, was the real 
sense of the country. One would have thought that 
petitioning and addressing was the best means known to 
our constitution of enlightening the Sovereign as to the 
real wishes of his subjects. The reason of the sudden 
activity of the anti-Unionists in presenting these 
petitions is not far to seek. They were alarmed by the 
declarations and addresses which were made and pub- 
lished during the interval which elapsed between June 
1799, aod the opening of Parliament in 1800. They 
therefore collected all their forces to make a last effort 
against the Union. The time of presenting these petitions 
and a certain similarity of expression which runs 
through them all, may be accounted for by the following 
circular or letter missive which, with its inclosure, was 
sent round to every part of Ireland. 

" Dublin, Jan. 20, 1800. 

" Sir, 

" A number of gentlemen of both Houses of Parliament, of 
whom thirty-eight represent counties, have authorised us to acquaint 
you that it is their opinion that petitions to Parliament, declaring 
the real sense of the freeholders of the kingdom on the subject of a 
Legislative Union, would at this time be highly expedient ; and if 
such a proceeding shall have your approbation, we are to request 



you will use your influence to have such a petition from your 
county without delay. 

" We have the honour to be, Sir, 

" Your most obedient, humble servants, 

" Downshire, 
" Charlemoxt, 1 

"W. B. POH80HBY." 

The inclosure was a form of petition which was 
to represent the " real sense " of the country. " To 
the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses in Parliament 
assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned 

freeholders of the County showeth that at this 

awful and alarming crisis w r e feel ourselves called 
upon to declare our opinion that a Legislative Union 
with Great Britain to be 2 a dangerous innovation, 
fraught with ruin to the constitutional independence, 
commercial interests, and general prosperity of the 
kingdom. That this measure, by depriving us of a 
resident and protective legislature, under which our 
country has hitherto prospered beyond example, by 
increasing the number of absentees and the conse- 
quent drain of our wealth, must augment the dis- 
contents of the kingdom, and thereby endanger the 
connection between Great Britain and Ireland, which 
we are determined to support w r ith our lives and 
fortunes. That we rely, therefore, with unshaken 
confidence on the wisdom and justice of this honourable 
House, that it will maintain to us and our posterity 

1 Volunteer Charlemont died 4th of August, 1799. This was 
his son. 

2 Sic, as given in Lord Clare's speech. 



unimpaired, that sacred constitution which is our 
birthright, which has been the source of every 
blessing to the island, and the enjoyment of which 
we deem inseparable from our existence as a free 

We have the answers to this circular appeal in 
the forty-six petitions to the House of Commons. 
Those from the freeholders of the towns were all 
presented between the 4th and 1 5th of February, 
the latest being on the 14th. Those from the counties 
were laid on the table between the 4th and the 
24th of the same month, except that from the Queen's 
County, which was presented on the 1st of March. 
The other petitions from the Corporation of Dublin 
and the Guilds were presented between the 4th 
of February and the 14th of March. 

This was an instance, on an extensive scale, of what 
Lord Coke calls "auricular confession," where you 
present your own opinion to another, and, at the same 
time, press him to further and recommend it. The 
scheme of circulating a ready-made petition in order to 
collect the unbiassed sentiments of the people, was no 
doubt a proceeding calculated to relieve the class which 
was addressed from a]l difficulty of deliberation. But 
what weight can we attach to petitions so sought for 
and so obtained ? When we remember that the Adminis- 
tration was contending with a powerful local oligarchy, 
which had so long held the government of Ireland in its 
hands, and which was supported by hangers-on in every 
county and by all the petty corporations in the country, we 
can only wonder that instead of forty-six petitions, there 



were not many times that number. Nothing proves so 
clearly as the feeble response made to the circular letter, 
that the people were satisfied with the project of Union, 
and that they had deserted the Opposition. If we keep 
in mind the dates of the circular and of the presentation 
of the petitions, it will appear that there was not a single 
spontaneous petition against the Union from any public 
body throughout the whole of Ireland. 

The two noblemen who had signed the circular were 
present in the House of Lords when it was referred to 
by Lord Clare, in his great speech of the ioth of 
February. 1800. "But the active exertions of itinerant 
lords and commoners were not deemed sufficient for the 
occasion, and we have seen a consular authority assumed 
by two noble lords and a right lion, commoner, who 
have issued their letter-missive to every part of the 
kingdom, commanding the people, in the name of a 
number of gentlemen of both Houses of Parliament, to 
come forward with petitions condemning in terms of 
violence and indignation the measure of Union, prior to 

its discussion in Parliament Let me ask the two 

noble lords who have thus put themselves forward, what 
are the exclusive pretensions of them and their right 
lion, colleague to guide the public opinion ? Let me 
ask them by what authority they have issued their 
letter-missive to everv corner of the kingdom, command- 
ing the people to subscribe an instrument fraught with 
foul and violent misrepresentation ? And let me ask 
them, is there salvation for this country under the 
present Government and constitution, when men of 
their rank and situation can stoop to so shabby and 


wicked an artifice to excite popular outcry against the 
declared sense of both Houses of Parliament ? " 

There can be no doubt also that the anti-Unionists 
had recourse to a system of open and general bribery. 
Of this we have both direct and circumstantial evidence. 
On the 29th of January, 1800, Lord Castlereagh writes 
to the Duke of Portland : " It is said that a very con- 
siderable sum has been subscribed for the purpose of 
buying seats to resist the Union. If I can believe a 
Member of Parliament who has now a seat vacant, 
4000/. was offered him for the return in Mr. Curran's 
favour. Two lawyers .... have been returned for 
two seats which we had reason to count on." 1 On the 
7th of February, he states to the same Minister that 
Mr. Whaley was " absolutely bought by the Opposition 
stock purse. He received, I understand, 2000/. down, 
and is to receive as much more after the service is 
performed. We have undoubted proofs, though not 
such as we can disclose, that they are enabled to offer 
as high as 5000/. for an individual vote." 2 On the 
following day Lord Cornwallis writes to his brother, 
" One (of our supporters) was bought during the debate, 
Jerusalem Whaley, the Chancellor's brother-in-law. The 
enemy, to my certain knowledge, offer 5000/. ready 
money for a vote. 3 The editor, through whose hands 
all Lord Cornwallis' papers and correspondence passed, 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 174. 2 lb. 182. 

3 lb. iii. 184. Mr. Whaley got the name of "Jerusalem" from 
a bet, said to have been for 20,000^., that he would walk, except 
where a sea-passage was unavoidable, to Jerusalem and back within 
twelve months. 



declares it is certain that large sums were spent in 
bribery by the Opposition. Barrington practically 
admits this. 1 Lord Charlemont, when he was accused 
in the Upper House by Lord Clare of subscribing to a 
stock-purse collected for this purpose, proved " pretty 
distinctly by his defence to the charge, that a Consular 
Exchequer did exist for the corruption of Parliament." 2 
And Grattan's son informs us in the life of his father : 
" One of the plans adopted and acted on by the Opposi- 
tion, was to bring; into Parliament members to vote 
against the Union ; it amounted, in fact, to a project to 
out-buy the minister. ... To carry into effect this 
measure a subscription was opened, the names set down 
were numerous, and the sums considerable ; in a short 
time 100,000/. was subscribed." 3 The author then 
goes on to tell us the same story of Mr. Whaley, how 
this gentleman, who had voted for the Union in 1799, 
received 4000/. for voting against it in 1 800. 

The Opposition boasted that they had a stock-purse, 
and that they had collected a sum of 100,000/. 4 
Subscriptions were openly solicited in the streets of 
Dublin to a fund for defeating; the measure of Union. 5 
On one occasion, in February, 1800, twelve of their 
supporters, of whom Mr. Whaley was one, left the 
Government. 6 How are we to account for this whole- 

1 Rise and Fall, &c, 460, note 488. 

2 Corn. Corr. iii. 186. 3 Grattan's Life, v. 71. 

4 Corn. Corr. iii. 174. 

5 "I know that subscriptions are openly solicited in the streets 
of the metropolis to a fund for defeating the measure of Union." — 
Lord Clare in House of Lords, 10th Feb. 1800. 

6 Corn. Corr. iii. 183. 



sale desertion ? Members of Parliament are generally 
men of a mature time of life, and change of opinion 
is not instantaneous in a middle-aged bosom. The 
country was at this time disposed in favour of the 
Union. Making every allowance for pressure from a 
few of the constituencies, it is impossible to believe that 
these sudden conversions were the results of reflection, 
or arose from other than interested motives. 

When men like Plunket, Foster, and Bushe, made 
use of such childish arguments, as that the Irish 
legislature was not competent to enact a Union, and 
that the settlement of 1782 precluded an international 
treaty between two independent kingdoms — when the 
leaders of the Opposition spoke sedition, and by 
prophesying future treason, encouraged it 1 — and 
when the rank and file of the same party talked of 
shedding their blood in defence of their local Parlia- 
ment, and urged that the only reason Pitt had in 
recommending a Union was to get possession of the 
Irish purse — we may be eertain that its supporters felt 
the weakness of a cause which was sustained by such 
logic. If, however, the anti-Unionists were inferior in 
argument and reasoning, they could at least attempt 
to harass the Government by alarming the country and 
exciting its prejudices against the Union. For this 
purpose they had recourse to every means in their 
power. In the north the farmers were told that the 
Union was a project of Mr. Pitt to lay a tax of five 
shillings on every wheel, and two shillings on every 
loom, that when the Parliament was taken away 
1 Com. Corr. iii. 240-1, 213. 



all their leases would be broken, and the land relet at 
higher rents, and that this was the reason that so many 
of the landlords were in favour of the measure. 1 In 
the south, where the mass of the people were Catholics, 
different tactics were employed. Dr. Moylan, Catholic 
Bishop of Cork, informs us that " it was industriously 
propagated, no doubt by the enemies of the Union, that 
this measure, once effected, would preclude for ever 
the Roman Catholics of the kingdom from the hopes of 
further emancipation, and that under the Imperial 
Parliament the junto who oppressed them would still 
prevail and hold the reins of the Government of the 
country." 2 And on the ioth of February, 1S00, Lord 
Clare in the House of Lords enumerated some of the 
means to which the anti- Unionists had resorted. "To their 
eternal reproach and dishonour be it spoken, some 
persons of high rank and consequence in the kingdom 
availed themselves of that opportunity [the late recess], 
to become the emissaries of sedition, and to canvass 
popular clamour against the measure by the most 
shameless impositions on the ignorance and credulity of 
every man who would listen to them. The zealous 
Protestant was told, this is an insidious scheme of the 
British minister to deliver you up to the Papists, bound 
hand and foot. The Catholics were told, if you suffer 
this, there is an end to emancipation. The industrious 
farmer was told, if this takes place, there is an end of 
your lease, or if it should escape the grasp of your 
landlord, Mr. Pitt will take from you one-half of the 

1 Pari. Deb. of the 5th February, 1800, p. 147. J. Moore, Dublin. 

2 Cast. Corr. ii. 400. 

K 2 


profits of your farm. How will you like, if you have a 
profit of 50/. yearly on your farm, to pay 25/. to 
Mr. Pitt ? " 

^/ Even the most seditious means of irritating the 
country were adopted. Inflammatory handbills were 
distributed among the yeomanry, calling on them to 
rise and save the country, and asking them whether 
60,000 men with arms in their hands would tamely 
stand by and see the constitution of their country 
destroyed. The yeomanry were mostly Orange- 
men ; fortunately that body was kept quiet by their 
Grand Master, Thomas Verner. On the 21st of 
January, 1800, Lord Cornwallis writes to the Duke 
of Portland, 44 Since my last communication to your 
Grace, every means have been taken by the anti- 
Unionists to inflame the minds of the people. . . . The 
most seditious and artful handbills are now in general 
circulation, calling upon the yeomanry, Orangemen, 
and Catholics to form one solid and indissoluble bond of 
opposition to the Union. And one of these productions 
is peculiarly addressed to the passions of the yeomanry 
by stating that no Government can wrest the Parlia- 
ment from 60,000 armed and tried men." 1 On the 27th 
of the same month he again writes, " Every engine is at 
work to irritate the minds of the people, and to carry 
the opposition to the measure beyond constitutional 
bounds." 2 On the 31st, Lord Castlereagh writes, 3 

"~ " Every endeavour is made to excite the country. I 
understand from Lord Londonderry, who has just 
returned from the County Down, that the prevalent idea 
1 Corn.Gorr. iii. 168. 2 lb. 173. 3 lb. iii. 175. 



among the people is, that when the Parliament is taken 
away, Irish law will be at an end, and all their 
leases broken. They are told, to induce them to sign 
against the measure, that the reason so many gentlemen 
are for a union is, that they may new-let their estates 
at advanced rents." In February he again writes to the 
Duke of Portland, 1 " A not less formidable principle we 
have to contend against is the effect produced by 
their system of intimidation on the minds of our timid 
and lukewarm friends. The Opposition have shown 
their determination to rouse the disaffection of the 
country, and to hunt the people at the Government, and 
have not confined their efforts to the people alone. 
Both the yeomanry and militia are held forth to shake 
the constancy of our friends.'' 2 

A few examples of the conduct of the anti- \ 
Unionists will show us how far these gentlemen 
were willing to go along the path of sedition. Mr. 
Townley Balfour, afterwards member for Belturbet, at 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 183. 

2 " I shall mention one laughable instance of the ingenuity of 
the anti-Unionists in this neighbourhood (Londonderry). The 
Catholics are told that by it (the Union) they will all be made 
Englishmen, and be obliged to go to church ! The poor people are 
actually in terror of this metamorphosis. I will add another 
instance of the address of the party of which I have a perfect 
knowledge. When the petition from Tyrone to Farliament was in 
the hands of the manufacturers, the linen inspector for the county 
applied to the drapers in the market towns for lists of the weavers 
from whom they had purchased webs, and on being asked by a 
friend of mine for what purpose, bluntly answered, ' To make up 
the lisi of subscribers to the anti-Union petition.' " — Bev. Dr. Black 
to Lord Castlereagh, 26th April, 1800. Cast. Corr. iii. 287. 


the County Louth meeting in 1 799, moved the following 
resolution : " That if an Union be enacted by the legis- 
lature of this kingdom, either contrary to or without the 
advice of the assembled freeholders and burgesses, the 
submission of the people of Ireland thereto will be a 
matter of prudence and not of duty." 1 Sir William 
Worthington, commanding the Liberty Eangers, 
Dublin, ordered his corps to parade with the King's 
colour, but in lieu of the regimental colour a standard 
on which was inscribed, " For our King and the Con- 
stitution of Ireland." 2 

Mr. William Saurin was a King's Counsel, and 
commandant of the Lawyers' Infantry Corps, a body 
which included the barristers and attorne}^ of Dublin, 
This gentleman issued a regimental order directing; his 
corps to meet " in their new regimentals " to discuss 
what was well known to be the question of Uniou. But 
as many members expressed their disapprobation of 
meeting as a military body to consider political matters, 
and of giving a warlike appearance to the opposition to 
that measure, Mr. Saurin was obliged to revoke his 
previous order and issue a new one, inviting the 
barristers only to attend, not as a military but as 
a civil body. 3 A few days later we find Mr. Saurin 
engaged in soliciting the officers of the different corps 
of yeomanry in Dublin to sign a paper stating their 
determination to lay down their arms in case the 
measure of Union should be brought forward. 4 Mr. 
Saurin was afterwards brought into Parliament in 1 800 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 97. 2 lb. iii. 29. 

3 lb. iii. 5. 4 lb. iii. 29. 



by Lord Downshire for his borough of Blessington, and 
was one of the most violent anti-Unionists in that 
assembly. Like so many others of the Opposition he 
was promoted after the Union, and became Attorney- 
General in i So;. 1 

Lord Downshire was the owner of vast estates, and 
possessed of enormous influence. He had created so 
many forty-shilling freeholders on his property that 
Wakefield describes it as a " warren " of such voters. 
His influence in his county was so great that Lord 
Cornwallis writes, in May, 1799, "Were Lord Down- 
shire to come forward, we should have the county of 
Down unanimous." 2 This nobleman was Colonel of the 
Downshire Militia, which was then stationed in Carlow. 
In January, 1800, about the same time as the circular 
letter requesting petitions against the Union was signed 

1 There was hardly an opponent of the Union of any consequence 
who was nut promoted or advanced after 1800. If this had been 
done in the case of the Unionists, calumny would have pointed at 
it as a proof of corruption. We give some of these promotions, kc. : 

Plunket, Solicitor General in 1803 ; Attorney-General, 1805. 
George Ponsonby, Lord Chancellor, 1806. 
W. B. Ponsonby, created Lord Ponsonby, 1S06. 
Foster (Speaker), Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1804, and 
pension, 5,038/. 

His son, an office of 1,200/. a year, 
Saurin, Attorney-General, 1807. 

Bushe, Solicitor-General, 1805, till appointed C. J. 1822. 
Prendergast Smyth, created Lord Kiltarton, 18 10. 
George Knox, a Lord of the Treasury, 1805. 
Colonel Maxwell, do. 18 10. 

Curran, Goold, Burrowes, Ball, Bowes Daly, William Bagwell, 
Charles O'Hara, Barrington, A. Acheson, all promoted or advanced. 

2 Cast. Corr. ii. 319. 


by him, and distributed through the country, Lord 
Downshire transmitted to his regiment the draft of a 
petition against that measure, with a request that the 
officers and soldiers should sign it, Between six and 
seven hundred signed it. The soldiers were in many 
cases ignorant of the contents of the paper presented to 
them for signature. Some imagined it was a petition 
in favour of the Union, others that it was a request that 
the Union should not he carried out of the country. 
The matter was closely investigated, and it was reported 
officially that Lord Downshire had acted as we have 
stated. He was dismissed his regiment, and from his 
office of Governor of the County Down ; his name was 
also struck out of the Privy Council. The treatment of 
Lord Downshire by the Government was far too lenient. 
He ought to have been tried by court-martial for such a 
grave offence against the discipline of the army. 1 The 
crisis was a grave one, and Lord Cornwallis was so 
much alarmed by the seditious conduct of the anti- 
Unionists that on more than one occasion he pressed 
on the Government the necessity of despatching more 
troops to Ireland. 2 

But all the efforts of the anti-Unionists to irritate 

1 Cast. Cor?-, iii. 230-5. Corn. Corr. iii. 179. 

2 " Every exertion should be used on your side to send over 
without loss of time the whole or a part of the regular forces 
destined to serve in this country ; and I think this step the more 
necessary as some of the Opposition are endeavouring to raise a 
popular clamour in Dublin and the adjacent counties" (18th Jan. 
1800). " In this situation of affairs, and at this crisis, your Grace 
cannot be surprised at my again expressing an anxious hope for the 
speedy arrival of the reinforcement of troops which have been long 
expected" (27th Jan.). 



and excite the people were made in vain. The country 
was satisfied, and therefore tranquil. Even Dublin had 
settled down. The successive accounts which Lord 
Cornwallis gives of the perfect quiet which prevailed in 
that city and throughout the country are both interesting 
and instructive. On the 22nd of April, 1800, he writes : 
" Dublin itself, although undoubtedly very averse to the 
Union, is in a state of more perfect tranquillity than it 
has ever before enjoyed ; " 1 on the 13th of May, "The 
city is perfectly tranquil ; " 2 on the 18th, "The country 
is perfectly quiet ; " 3 on the 22nd, " The city is per- 
fectly quiet, and has shown no sensation on the subject 
of union since the recommencement of business after 
the adjournment ; " 4 on June 7th, " The greatest satis- 
faction is, that it occasions no agitation either in town 
or country ; " 5 on the 3rd of July he speaks of " the 
quiet of the country at large on the subject, and the 
almost good-humoured indifference with which it is 
viewed in the metropolis." 6 And when he gave the 
Royal assent to the Act of Union, " There was not a 
murmur heard in the street, nor, I believe, an expression 
of ill-humour throughout the whole city of Dublin." 7 
He again recurs to this subject in a letter to his friend 
Ross on the 16th of August, " Nothing can be more quiet 
than Dublin. In our procession through a part of the 
Liberties, in going from the Castle to St. Patrick's 
Cathedral at the Installation, the concourse of people 
was immense, and they all had cheerful countenances, 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 229. 2 lb. iii. 238. 

4 lb. iii. 239. 5 lb. iii. 249. 

7 lb. iii. 28s. 

3 lb. iii. 235. 
6 lb. iii. 270. 



and when I passed they cried out, c There he is,' 
' That's he/ and often added, ' God bless him. ' " 1 

For the country, to repeat the words of an anti- 
Unionist, had deserted the Opposition, and was satisfied 
with the terms of Union. For nearly two years the 
measure had been discussed in every household in the 
kingdom, in the newspapers and at county meetings. 
Both the communities which made up Ireland were con- 
tent. 2 The dream of Molyneux was at last fulfilled ; 
the wishes of the thinkers and writers of the country 
were accomplished. Ireland was received into partner- 
ship with Great Britain upon the equitable conditions 
of similarity of laws and privileges, and of national 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 288. 

2 "It may interest some of our readers to know that Lord 
Bristol, the once well-known Bishop of Derry, was in favour of the 
Union. He authorised the affixing of his signature to the declara- 
tion of the county of Londonderry." — Belfast News Letter, 8th Oct. 


Sentiments of the Catholic community on the Union. — Support 
given to that measure by their peerage. — Their hierarchy. — Their 
inferior clergy. — Their laity. 

The position of the Irish Catholics before and at 
the time of the Union was peculiar, and deserves a short 
consideration. There is very little doubt that they 
would have preferred full emancipation, unaccompanied 
by a Union with England. 1 With their enormous pre- 
ponderance of numbers, if the right of sitting in Parlia- 
ment had been granted to them, they would soon have 
obtained a majority in the legislature. It is hard to 
say how far their wishes and ambition would have carried 
them on the opening of such an unbounded field. The 
first object of their attacks would naturally have been 
the Protestant Establishment, and from this the}' might 
have proceeded to the repeal of the Act of Settlement, 
and the reversal of the confiscations. These questions 

1 u For unquestionably no distinct description of persons had so 
interesting and strong an argument to ground their opposition upon 
as the body of Roman Catholics, who by the Union forfeited all the 
constitutional advantages of a most decided majority in an inde- 
pendent nation, to sink into an insignificant minority of the United 
Kingdom." — Plowden, vol. ii. pt. ii. 980. 


alone would have led to civil war, perhaps to separation 
and a fresh conquest by England. For the disturbance 
could not have been limited to Ireland alone. A 
Protestant England and Catholic Ireland, united under 
a Protestant King, who by his coronation oath was bound 
to maintain the Protestant religion, would have been a 
political monster, whose life must indeed have been but 
of short duration. 

On the other hand, the Irish Catholics were well 
&ware that full emancipation would riot be granted to 
them by an Irish Protestant Parliament as long as it 
could be refused with safety. They knew that the Pro- 
testants were acquainted with the danger of their own 
position, and that they dreaded the growing power and 
preponderance of the Catholics. Flood asked in the 
House of Commons the pertinent question, to which no 
answer could be given : "If you grant equal rights to 
the Catholics, how can the constitution be maintained ? " 
To whom then were the Catholics to look ? Under whose 
banner were they to range themselves ? One party 
among the anti-Unionists, that known as Chaiiemonts, 
was resolute against any further concession, and sincerely 
believed that the admission of Catholics to political 
power would be fatal to the stability of the country. 
The other party, led by Grattan, was in favour of their 
full and immediate emancipation without a Union. The 
Catholics were sagacious enough to see that Grattan's 
position was untenable. Though they were grateful to 
him for his eloquent advocacy of their claims, they were 
often disturbed and repelled by his inconsistencies, in- 
consistencies so great that they are almost unintelligible. 



Grattan was for hurrying on emancipation, yet he was 
the unflinching champion of Protestant ascendency. 
"These being my principles," he writes in 1793, in his 
answer to an address from the citizens of Dublin, " and 
the Protestant interest my first object, you may judge 
that I shall never assent to any measure tending to 
shake the security of property in the kingdom, or to 
subvert the Protestant ascendency." 1 Grattan tells us 
that he loved the Catholics, yet he allowed himself to 
speak of their religion in a manner, which if it were done 
at the present day would be justly reprobated. " In 
Ireland," says he, "as connected with England, the 
indulgence we wish to give to Catholics can never be 
injurious to the Protestant religion. That religion is the 
religion of the State, and will become the religion of 
Catholics if severity does not prevent them. Bigotry 
may survive persecution, but it can never survive tolera- 
tion." 2 This extraordinary statement is perfectly un- 
qualified by the context, and furnishes perhaps the only 
example in the world of a public man declaring openly 
that the convictions of four millions of his fellow-sub- 
jects rested on obstinacy or bigotry. Outside the pages 
of Partridge's almanacs it would be difficult to find such 
a combination of the folly of prophecy, and the ignoring 
of patent facts. 

It was clear to the Catholics that there was no safety 
to be expected from the leadership of Grattan. Under 
these circumstances they began, though they were slow at 
moving, to turn their eyes to the English Government — 

1 Grattan's Miscel. Works, 289, quoted by Lecky, note iv. 386. 

2 Speech on the Catholic question, 20th Feb. 1782. 



that Government which they had long looked upon, not 
as their oppressor, but as their protector, and with whom 
they had always sympathised much more strongly than 
with their native Parliament. 1 They began to ground 
their hopes on an Imperial Parliament where their case 
might be considered in an unprejudiced tribunal free 
from local feelings and petty jealousies. They saw, on 
the one hand, that emancipation would not without a 
contest be conceded by their domestic Parliament on 
account of the danger to the Protestant Establishment, 
and the fear of weakening Protestant titles. And that, 
on the other, it might be safely granted by a united 
Parliament without danger to the constitution or proba- 
bility of internal dissensions. These motives determined 
them to accept Union, accompanied, they hoped, with 
emancipation, for they believed that emancipation with- 
out Union seemed scarcely possible. And having 
chosen one side of the alternative, they gave it their 
warm and hearty approbation. They were willing to 
support it without raising the question of their admis- 
sion to Parliament. Nay, they were actually opposed 
to starting this consideration lest it should render the 
measure of Union more difficult. 2 They trusted that 
the Imperial Parliament would dispassionately consider 
their claims, a thing which their leaders declared the 
Irish Parliament was not capable of doing, and that it 
would at a proper time allow them every privilege 
consistent with the constitution. 3 Without a single direct 
promise in their favour, though not without expectation 
of future concessions, the Irish Catholics took up the 
1 Lecky, iv. 462. 2 Com. Corr. iii. 8. 8 lb. 



measure of Union and lent it their hearty concurrence. 
And it is remarkable that some of their foremost men 
hesitated to do this openly lest they should injure the 
cause to which they had devoted themselves. We shall 
subsequently see that the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam 
for this reason delayed for many days to affix his signa- 
ture to a resolution in favour of the Union. And that 
the Bishop of Heath, though he signed afterwards, for 
the same reason did not at first sign the declaration of 
the county of Meath. 

In December, 1798, Lord Cornwallis tells us that 
the Catholics were in favour of a Union ; of this he was 
assured by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and 
Lords Fingall and Kenmare. 1 The Catholics appear 
to have hesitated, or to have feared to come forward 
for some time. 2 In July, 1799, Lord Cornwallis writes 
again : " If I may confide in the accounts I receive, the 
measure is working very favourably in the south. 
Within these few days the Catholics have shown a 
disposition to depart from their line of neutrality and 
to support the measure. Those of the city of Water- 
ford have sent up a very strong declaration in favour of 
Union, at the same time expressing a hope that it will 
lead to the accomplishment of their emancipation as 
they term it, but not looking to it as a preliminary. 
The Catholics of Kilkenny have agreed to a similar 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 8. 

2 At a meeting at Lord Fingall's, 15th Dec. 1798, "The general 
opinion of the meeting was that the Catholics as such ought not to 
deliberate on the Union as a question of Empire, but only as it 
might affect their own peculiar interests." — Dr. Troy to Lord 
Castlereagh. Cast. Corr. ii. 61. 


declaration ; and as the clergy of that church, par- 
ticularly the superiors, countenance the measure, it is 
likely to extend itself." 1 In November 1799, he writes : 
" The Union is, I trust, making progress ; the great body 
of the people in general, and of the Catholics in par- 
ticular, are decidedly for it." 2 

But we are not left merely to the evidence of strangers 
to the Catholic body. In December 1798, the Arch- 
bishop of Dublin and Lords Kenmare and Fin gall 
declared they had no hope in the Irish Parliament, and 
that they looked forward to a united Parliament to 
grant them the privileges they desired. 3 In September 
1799, Dr. Moylan, Bishop of Cork, writes to Sir J. C. 
Hippesley, 4 a well-known and warm friend of the 
Catholics : " The Eoman Catholics in general are 
avowedly for the measure. In the south, where they 
are the most numerous, they have declared in its favour, 
and I am sure they will do the same in the other parts 
of the kingdom unless overawed (as I know they are in 
some counties) by the dread of the powerful faction 
that opposes it. In this city (Dublin), where the outcry 
against it has been so very violent, it is becoming every 
day less unpopular, and I am persuaded that the Eoman 
Catholic inhabitants will in time testify their appro- 
bation of it. 5 In the same month the Archbishop of 

1 Lord Cornwallis to Duke of Portland. — Cast. Corr. ii, 351. 

2 Corn. Corr. iii. 143. 3 lb. 8. 

4 It was this gentleman who was the means of obtaining from 
George III. a pension of 4,000^. for Cardinal Stuart, the last of that 
unhappy family, who so pathetically described himself on his medals, 
Bex Britt., doc. Dei gratia seal non hominum voluntate. 

5 Cast. Corr. ii. 399. 



Tuam writes to the Archbishop of Dublin : "I have had 
an opportunity, in the course of the parochial visitation 
of this diocese, which is nearly finished, of observing 
how little averse the public mind is to that measure ; 
and I have also had an opportunity of acquiring the 
strongest conviction that this measure alone can restore 
harmony and happiness to our unhappy country." 1 In 
October, 1799, the Archbishop of Dublin writes: "You 
will observe, by our public papers, that the question of 
Union is daily gaining ground. The Catholics are coming 
forward in different parts in favour of the measure, 
which the generality of them consider as their only 
protection against a faction seemingly intent on their 
defamation or destruction." 2 

It was asserted by O'Connell that the Irish Catholics 
did not assent to the Act of Union. This assertion has 
been repeated by declaimers who are impatient of 
laborious research and follow blindly without inquiry. 
On this statement an argument has been founded that 
as the Catholics did not assent to the Union they are 
not bound by it. It therefore becomes necessary to 
examine the assertion, and at the risk of length and 
repetition to consider it with some minuteness. 

There is not the slightest foundation for the assertion. 
On the contrary, all the evidence goes to show irresistibly 
that the Catholics did assent to the measure of Union ; 
and that their peerage, their episcopacy, their inferior 
clergy, and their laity gave to it their hearty concurrence 
and co-operation. 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 386. This diocese includes nearly all Mayo and 
portions of Gal way and Roscommon. 2 lb. ii. 420. 



The Catholics of Ireland assented to the Union by the 
majority of their representatives in Parliament. To say 
that that assent was not binding on them, and is not bind- 
ing on their successors, because the Catholics had not then 
the right of sitting in the legislature, would be hazardous 
and would prove too much. For such an argument 
would prove that the Scotch Union was not' and is not 
binding on the Scotch and English Catholics. Members 
of this communion were numerous in both those 
countries, and the Highlands were in great part Catholic 
at the time of the Scotch Union. These bodies 
had neither the privilege of the franchise, nor were 
they represented in Parliament; yet what jurist would 
venture to argue that they themselves were not bound, 
and that their descendants are not bound, by the Act 
of Union and by the decision of the Parliaments of their 
countries as then established by law ? The Irish Catholics 
at the time of their Union were much more favourably 
situated than were those of England and Scotland in 
1707, or even 120 years later. They were fully re- 
presented in their native Parliament, or rather, they 
were enormously over-represented when compared with 
the electoral body of either England or Scotland. 

The validity, therefore, of the Union and of the 
proceedings of 1800 may be rested on the assent of the 
Catholics given by their representatives, and on the 
strict and recognised principles of the Constitution, 
which declare that the Parliament for the time being 
is competent to bind every subject whether represented 
or not. Any other doctrine is unsettling and hazardous. 
But we need not stop here, for it can be proved that the 



private wishes and hopes of the Catholic community 
corresponded to the public assent given by them con- 
stitutionally in Parliament. 

The Irish Catholic peers were strongly in favour of 
a Union. In the beginning of the year 1800 this body 
had occasion to write to Lord Cornwallis respecting a 
claim which they were then urging as to a rioht of their 
order. They thus express their sentiments on the 
subject of a Union : " The Catholic peers, therefore, my 
Lord, do not wish by any means to press at this time a 
claim which shall be considered as likely to embarrass 
the great national measure now depending, from which 
they expect such benefits for their country at large, and 
looking forward with the most unbounded confidence to 
the magnanimity, liberality, and sound policy of the 
future Imperial legislature, venture to promise to 
themselves and the whole Catholic body many more 
considerable and extensive advantages." 1 

The entire Catholic episcopacy of Ireland, consist- 
ing of four Archbishops and nineteen Bishops, for three 
bishoprics were then vacant, was favourable to the 

In 1799, the English Government made a State pro- 
vision for the Catholic church in Scotland. How orate- 
fully this provision was received, may be gathered from 
the following extract from a letter signed by two of the 
Scotch Vicars Apostolic, 2 George Hay, Bishop of Daulia 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 204. The letter is dated 7th March, 1800. 

2 There were then no Catholic bishops in Scotland taking titles 
from Scotch localities. See Series Bpiacoporum Fecks. Cathol., by 
Bonifacius Gams, O.S.B. 

L 2 


and John Chisholm, Bishop of Diocsesarea. " You will 
easily conceive how great a consolation this intelligence 
gave us, to see ourselves and our clergy, by this singular 
assistance from our generous benefactors raised to a 
comfortable situation from almost absolute poverty. 
But what greatly enhanced the favour was the amiable 
and endearing manner in which his lordship 1 communi- 
cated the intelligence to us." 2 In the same year the 
Irish episcopacy was in treaty with Lord Castlereagh, 
the unwavering friend of the Catholics, for a similar 
provision for the Irish clergy. We know this from the 
resolutions of the Irish Bishops given below, 3 and from a 

1 Lord Advocate of Scotland. 

2 Cast. Govt. ii. 332. 

3 " At a meeting of the Roman Catholic prelates, held at Dublin 
on the 17th, 1 8th, and 19th January, 1799, to deliberate on a 
proposal from Government of an independent provision for the 
Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, under certain regulations not 
incompatible with their doctrines, discipline, or just influence, it 
was admitted that a provision through Government for the Roman 
Catholic clergy of this kingdom, competent and secured, ought to 
be thankfully accepted. 

" That in the appointment of the prelates of the Roman Catholic 
religion to the vacant sees within the kingdom, such interference of 
Government as may enable it to be satisfied of the loyalty of the 
person appointed is just and ought to be agreed to. 

" That to give the principle its full operation, without infringing 
the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church, or diminishing the 
religious influence which prelates of that church ought justly to 
possess over their respective flocks, the following regulations seem 
necessary : — 

" 1. In the vacancy of a see, the clergy of the diocese to recommend 
as usual a candidate to the prelates of the ecclesiastical province 
who elect him, or any other they may think more worthy, by a 
majority of suffrages. In the case of equality of suffrages, the 
metropolitan or senior prelate to have the casting vote. 


letter of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, dated the 9th 
of February in this year. On that day the Archbishop 

" 2. In the election of a metropolitan, if the provincial prelates do 
not agree within two months after the vacancy, the senior prelate 
shall forthwith invite the surviving metropolitans to the election, 
in which each will have a vote. In the equality of suffrages, the 
presiding metropolitan to have a casting vote. 

"3. In these elections the majority of suffrages must be ultra 
medtetatem, as the canons require, or must consist of the suffrages of 
more than half the electors. 

u 4. The candidates so elected to be presented by the president of 
the election to Government, which within one month after such 
presentation will transmit the name of the said candidate, if no 
objection be made against him, for appointment to the holy see, or 
return the said name to the president of the election for such 
transmission as may be agreed on. 

"5. If Government have any proper objection against such candi- 
dates, the president of the election will be informed thereof within 
one month after presentation, who in that case will convene the 
electors to the election of another candidate. 

" Agreeably to the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church, these 
regulations can have no effect without the sanction of the holy see, 
which sanction the Roman Catholic prelates of this kingdom shall, 
as soon as may be, use their endeavours to procure. The prelates 
are satisfied that the nomination of parish priests, with a certifi- 
cate of their having taken the oath of allegiance, be certified to 

" Richard O'Reilly, R.C.A.B. Armagh 
u J. S. Trov, R.C.A.B. Dublin. 
"Edward Dillon, R.C.A.B. Tuam. 
u Thomas Bray, R.C.A.B. Cashel. 
" P. J. Plunkett, R.C.B. Meath. 
" J. Moylak, R.C.B. Cork. 

Daniel Delany, R.C.B. Kildare. 
" Edmund French, R.C.B. Elphin. 
" James Caulfield, R.C.B. Ferns. 
" John Cruise, R.C.B. Ardagh. 
— G rattan s Life, v. 57. Wakefield's Ireland, ii. 514. 



writes : " Most of my brethren lately assembled here are 
gone home. As the measure of providing for our clergy 
seems connected with the question of Union which has 
been prematurely opposed in our Commons' House, the 
former must be postponed until the other be coolly con- 
sidered in Parliament. Previous to the separation of 
my brethren, certain preliminary points were agreed 
upon and sent by me to Lord Castlereagh, who 
expressed his approbation of them, and probably 
sent them to the Duke of Portland. They are 
not to be made public until the business be concluded. 
Meantime, Dr. O'Keiily, of Armagh, and Plunkett, 
of Meath, in conjunction with me, are authorised 
by our brethren to treat with Lord Castlereagh on 
the subject, when he may think it expedient to 
resume it." 1 

If the fact that the Irish episcopacy was engaged 
in a secret treaty with Government for a State pro- 
vision for the Catholic clergy, which provision was only 
to take effect in the event of a Union, be not sufficient 
evidence that this body was in favour of that measure, 
we have other and exceedingly strong evidence of their 
approval of it. The literature of private letters and 
newspapers is fleeting and evanescent, but still un- 
deniable proofs survive, and it is from such sources that 
we know that the four Catholic Archbishops were 
strongly in favour of the Union. 

As to Dr. O'Keilly, Archbishop of Armagh, and 
Primate of Ireland, the Archbishop of Tuam tells us 

1 Dr. Troy to Sir J. C. Hippisley, Cast. Corr. ii. 171. 


that this prelate advised him to sign a resolution in 
favour of a Union. 1 

The Archbishop of Dublin was from the first a most 
strenuous supporter of the Union. Many of his letters 
Burvive exhorting his brethren to si^n themselves, and 
to obtain the signatures of others to declarations in 
favour of that measure. Thus, in July, 1799, he 
advised the Archbishop of Tuam to sign a declaration 
in favour of the Union, and his brother of Tuam writes 
back to him in answer to his exhortation, M Supported, 
however, by your sanction and that of Dr. O'Eeilly, I 
think I may venture to request of your lordship to sign 
it for me." ~ 

On July 1st, 1799, the Archbishop of Cashel writes 
to the Archbishop of Dublin : "As far as I understand 
the measure, it will be productive of substantial benefits 
to both countries, and therefore it meets my good 
wishes and shall have the whole of my little mite 
of assistance, but with due attention to the neces- 
sary cautions and hints so wisely suggested by Lord 
Castlereagh." 3 

On September 1st, 1799, the Archbishop of Tuam 
writes : "I feel myself each day less shy of publicly 
declaring my sentiments and wishes relative to the 
Union. I have had an opportunity, in the course of the 
parochial visitation of this diocese which is nearly 
finished, of observing how little averse the public mind 
is to that measure ; and I have also had an opportunity 

1 Dr. Dillon to Dr. Troy, Cast. Corr. ii. 347. 2 lb. ii. 347. 
3 The Archbishop of Cashel to Dr. Troy, ib. ii. 344. 


of acquiring the strongest conviction that this measure 
alone can restore harmony and happiness to our un- 
happy country." 1 

Such are the opinions of the four Archbishops of 
Ireland. We now come to the Bishops. 

Dr. Plunkett, Bishop of Meath, writes on the 29th 
October, 1799, "For my part I will heartily join the 
Eoman Catholics of Meath the instant they will show a 
disposition to declare in favour of a Union," 2 In February, 
1800, this Bishop signed the declaration of the county 
of Meath in favour of that measure. 3 A few days later 
he and his Vicar-General, Dr. Mullaly, signed a similar 
declaration of the county Westmeath. 4 

In September, 1799, Dr. Cruise, Bishop of Ardagh 
and Clonmacnoise, presided at a meeting of the Catholics 
of the county Longford, which drew up an address to 
Lord Cornwallis in favour of " an incorporate Union 
with Great Britain," and was the first to sign it "for 
self and clergy." 5 The united dioceses of this bishop 
contained thirty- nine parish priests and thirteen 
curates. 6 

On the 28th of July, 1799, Dr. Bellew, Bishop of 
Killala, presided at a meeting of the Catholics of the 
Baronies of Tyrawley and Tireragh, which declared for 

1 Dr. Dillon to Dr. Troy, Cast. Corr. ii. 386. 

2 lb. ii. 437- 

3 Advertisement, Belfast News Letter, 4th March, 1800. 

4 lb. advert, nth March, 1800. 

5 lb. advert. 1st Oct. 1799. 

6 See this bishop's report on the state of his diocese, Cast. Corr. 


a Legislative Union. 1 This Bishop also signed in this 
month the declaration of the county Mayo in favour of 
a Union. 2 

Dr. Lanigan, Bishop of Ossoiy, was the first on a 
committee appointed by the Catholics of Kilkenny, to 
draw up a declaration in favour of a Legislative Union. 
The meeting took place on the 9th of July, 1799, and 
was unanimous. The declaration was drawn up and 
forwarded to Lord Cornwallis on the 19th of the same 
month. 3 

On the 22nd September, 1799, Dr. Caulfield, Bishop 
of Ferns, presided at a meeting of the Catholics of 
Wexford and its vicinity, which drew up an address to 
Lord Cornwallis in favour of " an incorporation of both 
legislatures." This address was signed by upwards of 
3,000 persons. 4 

In January, 1800, Dr. French, Bishop of Elphin, 
presided at a meeting of the Catholic clergy of this 
diocese which drew up an address to Lord Corn- 
wallis in favour of a Legislative Union. 5 This diocese 
contained fifty-nine parish priests and twenty-two 
curates. 6 

In September, 1799, Dr. Moylan, Bishop of Cork, 
writes : " Nothing, in my opinion, will more effectually 
tend to lay those disgraceful and scandalous party 
feuds and dissensions, and restore peace and harmony 

1 Advert. Belfast Xews Letter, 23rd Aug. 1799. 

2 lb. advert. 19th July, 1799. 3 lb. advert. iothSept. 1799. 
4 lb. advert. 19th Nov. 1799. 5 lb. advert. 14th Jan. 1800. 

6 See this bishop's report on the state of his diocese, Cast. Corr. 
iv. 166. 


amongst us, than the great measure in contemplation 
of the Legislative Union and incorporation of this 
kingdom with Great Britain." 1 On the 28t.l1 July, 
1800, the Bishop writes again: "The great question 
of Legislative Union is, thank God, most happily 
decided. The manner in which Lord Castlereaodi has 
conducted that important measure is highly honourable 
to his lordship, and evinces the most extensive abilities. 
May the Almighty grant him health and length of days 
to consolidate the good work, and to see the advantages 
realised which are expected eventually to accrue from it 
to this most distracted country." 2 

Dr. Delany, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, was in 
favour of the Union. Sir J. C. Hippisley writes, on the 
27th February, 1799 : " Mr. Macdonald, the chaplain of 
the Glengarry regiment, showed me this morning a 
letter from the titular Bishop Delany, who mentions 
Dr. Troy 3 having read my letter to the assembly of 
Catholic bishops before they left Dublin. Delany 
speaks highly in favour of the Union, but says the 
excesses committed on many of the Catholic clergy still 
obtain." 4 

We have already seen that Dr. Lennan, Bishop of 
Dromore, lent his aid to the Union, and that in answer 
to Dr. Troy's request for his assistance, this Bishop and 
the Catholics of Newry re-elected the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, a strong Unionist, against Mr. Ball, an able 
and eloquent anti-Unionist. 

In July, 1799, Dr. Sugrue, Bishop of the united 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 399. 2 lb. iii. 364. 

3 Archbishop of Dublin. 4 Cast. Corr. ii. 188. 



dioceses of Ardfert and Aghadoe — generally called the 
diocese of Kerry, signed the declaration of the county 
of Kerry in favour of a Union. 1 

In September, 1799, Dr. O'Donnell, Bishop of Deny, 
signed the declaration in favour of a Union made by the 
city of Londonderry. 8 

In the same month, Dr. MeMahon, Bishop of 
KiHaloe, signed the declaration of the city and 
county of Limerick in favour of a Legislative Union. 3 

In December, 1799, Dr. Coyle, Bishop of Raphoe, 
signed the Donegal declaration in favour of a Union. 4 

Dr. V. Bodkin, fur many years the agent of the 
secular 5 Irish Bishops at Rome, writes from Galway, in 
February, 1799: "I am far from thinking the Union 
lost." (This was after the first debate in the Commons.) 
" A little time will rally and bring back the dis- 
heartened and disaffected. It is the only means left to 
save from ruin and destruction that poor and infatuated 
Ireland." 6 

Three of the Irish Bishoprics were vacant at this 
time. Achonry, from which Dr. Egan had been trans- 
lated to Tuam, and had died almost immediately ; 
Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, which Dr. Concannen had 

1 Advert. Belfast Aeics Letter, 19th July, 1799. 

2 lb. 24th Sept. 1799. 3 lb. 1st Oct. 1799. 

4 lb. 20th Dec. 1799. 

5 There were two regulars, bishops in Ireland, Dr. Troy, Arch- 
bishop of Dublin, and Dr. McMahon, Bishop of Killaloe, both 
Dominicans. Dr. Concannen, also a Dominican, had been shortly 
before appointed Bishop of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, but he 
resigned and returned to Borne. 

Cast. Corr. ii. 188. 


resigned ; and Kilmore, which remained vacant till some 
time in 1800. 1 

Thus, out of a hierarchy of four Archbishops and 
nineteen Bishops, we have the four Archbishops, thirteen 
Bishops, and the agent of the secular Bishops, all 
declaring by words and deeds that the Union 
was necessary to save Ireland. When we read these 
statements and remember the unity of action which 
the Irish Catholic Episcopacy has invariably observed 
in every political movement; and when we further 
remember that this body w T as then in treaty with 
the Government for a State provision for themselves and 
their clergy, it is impossible to come to any other 
conclusion than that the Catholic Episcopacy unanimously 
supported the Union publicly and privately, by exhorta- 
tion as well as by example. The unanimity of their 
support is the more remarkable, because the timid 
members among them were afraid that their public 
assistance would endanger the measure. " I am certain,'' 
writes the Archbishop of Tuam to the Archbishop of 
Dublin, on the 9th July, 1799, apologising for his delay 
in signing a declaration in favour of the Union, " that 
our bishops could more effectually promote any great 
measure which Government may adopt for the benefit 
of our country by not appearing so publicly to take an 
active part in the present political contest. These 
considerations, together with the difficulties in which, by 
such a precedent, I should probably involve some of our 
brethren more immediately exposed to the wrath of our 
enemies than I am, have left me wavering and uncertain 
1 Series Episcoporum Eccles. Catkol. 



for many days. Supported, however, by your sanction 
and that of Dr. O'Reilly I think I may venture to 
request of your lordship to sign it for me. My vicar- 
general and dean have already signed." 1 To a similar 
effect the Archbishop of Cash el had written to the same 
prelate a few days before. " If we act in any ostensible 
capacity in the business of Union either by a personal 
signature to an address in favour of it, or otherwise, in 
my humble opinion, instead of serving the cause we may 
injure it." 2 

As for the sentiments of the inferior clerffy — we have 
already seen that Dr. Cruise, Bishop of Ardagh and 
Clonmacnoise signed, on behalf of the clergy of these 
dioceses, the declaration of the Catholics of the county 
Longford in favour of the Union, and that Dr. French, 
Bishop of Elphin, presided at a meeting of the clergy of 
this diocese which drew up an address to Lord Corn- 
wallis. In June, 1799, Lord Altamont writes from 
Westport in reference to the county Mayo declaration 
in favour of a Union : " The priests have all offered to 
sign." 3 In January, 1800, the clergy was one of the 
three constituent parts of the Kilkenny county meeting 
which declared in favour of a Union. The name of the 
parish priest is the first on the committee of the 
Catholics of Wateiford who addressed Lord Cornwallis. 4 
The Eev. Charles Doran, P.P., was the chairman of the 
Catholics of five parishes in Kildare and King's County 
which declared for the Union. 5 The Rev. James Martin, 
P.P., was the chairman of the Dundalk Catholics who 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 347. 2 lb. ii. 344. 3 lb. ii. 327. 

4 Belfast Xews Letter, 23rd Aug. 1799. 5 lb. 13th Sept. 1799. 


addressed Lord Cornwallis. 1 The Rev. W. Chapman, 
P.P., presided at the meeting of the Catholics of New 
Koss and its neighbourhood who also addressed Lord 
Cornwallis. 2 The name of the Rev. P. Quin, P.P., 
heads the declaration made by the Catholics of Lower 
Cregan. 3 Parish priests signed freely the seventy- four 
declarations and petitions in favour of the Union made 
in all parts of Ireland. When we recollect that these 
were the times of Protestant ascendency, it is aston- 
ishing to find so many of the Catholic clergy venturing 
to support publicly a political measure which caused 
so much excitement, and appealed to so many passions. 
It is not to be expected that letters written by 
private individuals should be preserved, but one sur- 
vives which will give an idea of the universal favour 
which the Union met with from the class of the 
writer, and also from the Catholic laity. The letter 
is dated the 17th January, 1800, and is addressed by 
the Rev. H. Dowling to Lord Castlereagh. The follow- 
ing is an extract : " Though an obscure individual, yet 
extremely anxious lest the intemperate conduct of some 
of my brethren in communion (for I am a Catholic 
clergyman) should impress Government with an 
opinion that the sentiments of the generality of that 
communion were in unison with theirs, I have taken the 
liberty thus to intrude myself on your Lordship, in 
order to assure you that I and thousands of my brethren 
in the country parts of Ireland, whose sentiments I 
speak, feel exceedingly indignant at the rash and intem- 

1 Belfast News Letter, 15th Oct. 1799. 2 lb. 29th Oct. 

8 lb. 17th January, 1800. 



perate conduct of the Dublin Catholics on a late — or, 
rather a present — occasion. I mean, relative to the 
business of a legislative union. In the country parts of 
the kingdom we only wait to be called upon in order 
to declare our decided opinion in favour of that 
measure." 1 

If further evidence be required as to the support 
which the Catholic episcopacy and clergy gave to the 
Union, it is forthcoming. On the 15th of January, 1800, 
in the House of Commons, Grattan, irritated by the 
assistance which that body lent to the measure, de- 
scribed the Catholic clergy as " a band of prostituted men 
enorao-ed in the service of Government." 2 And Plowden, 
a Catholic, tells us " it may indeed be said that a very 
great preponderancy in favour of the Union existed in 
the Catholic body, particularly in their nobility, gentry, 
and clergy." 3 

Nor were the Catholic laity a whit behind their clergy 
in giving their support to the Union. 

On the 28th of June, 1799, the Catholics of Water- 
ford and its vicinity presented an address to Lord 
Cornwallis in favour of a Legislative Union. 4 

On the 28th of July the Catholics of the Baronies of 
Tyrawley and Tireragh, situated in the counties of Mayo 
and Sligo, with their Bishop in the chair, passed a 
resolution unanimously in favour of a Legislative Union. 5 

1 Cast. Corr. iii. 226. 

2 Hist, of the Delates of 15th Jan. J. Milliken, Dublin, 1800. 
Baron Smith's Letter to Grattan, p. 69. 

3 Review of the State of Ireland, vol. ii. pt. ii. 979. 

4 Advert. Belfast News Letter, 23rd Aug. 5 lb. 


In August, the Catholics of the city of Cork addressed 
Lord Cornwallis in favour of this measure. 1 

On the 22nd September, at a meeting of the Catholics 
of Wexford and its vicinity, their Bishop in the chair, a 
similar address was drawn up unanimously. 2 

On the 31st of July, the Catholics of the towns of 
Tipperary and Cahir, and their vicinity, drew up an 
address to Lord Cornwallis in favour of a Union. 3 

On the 9th of July, 1799, at a meeting of the 
Catholics of the city of Kilkenny, a declaration in favour 
of a Legislative Union was unanimously adopted. 4 

On the 1st of September, the Catholics of the parishes 
of Monasterevan, Lacka, Harristown, Nurney, and Bally- 
bracken, in the counties of Kildare and King's County, 
unanimously adopted the declaration of the Catholics of 
Waterford in favour of the Union. 5 

In August, 1799, the Catholics of the county of Long- 
ford, the Bishop of Arclagh and Clonmacnoise in the 
chair, drew up unanimously an address to Lord 
Cornwallis in favour of a Union. 6 

In October, the Catholics of Dundalk, the parish 
priest in the chair, addressed Lord Cornwallis in favour 
of that measure. 7 

In the same month, the Catholics of New Boss and its 
vicinity, the parish priest in the chair, drew up a similar 
address. 8 

In January, 1800, the Catholics of Lower Cregan, 

1 Advert. Belfast News Letter, 23rd Aug. 

2 lb. 3rd Sept. 4 lb. 13th Sept. 
6 lb. 1st Oct. 7 I5 th Oct. 

2 lb. 19th Nov. 
5 lb. 

8 lb. 29th Oct. 


county Armagh, passed a declaration in favour of the 
Union. 1 

In the same month, the Catholic "gentlemen, clergy, 
and freeholders " of the county of Kilkenny declared 
" their most heartfelt approbation of the intended measure 
of a Legislative Union between this kingdom and Great 
Britain." 2 

In this month also, the Catholics of the city of 
Limerick," with one dissentient voice," drew up an address 
to Lord Cornwallis in favour of a L'nion. 3 

In this month, 1,500 Catholics of the county of Eos- 
common forward t'd their signatures, separately from 
the Protestants, to the declaration in favour of the 
Union made by that county. 4 

Finally, Plowden tells us that the Catholics of the 
county of Leitrim also came forward and addressed in 
favour of that measure. But he does not mention the 
date ; he merely says that the address was signed by 
1,836 persons. 5 

In January, 1799, Lord Kenmare informed Lord 
Cornwallis " that the part of the Opposition which was 
the least indisposed to the Catholics had sent to the 
principal persons of that religion in the metropolis, to 
assure them that, if they would present a petition against 
the Union, a motion should be made, as soon as the 
question of Union was disposed of, in favour of Catholic 
emancipation." Notwithstanding this offer and the 
efforts of the anti-Unionists, the Catholics stood firm. 

1 Advert. Belfast Xews Letter, 17th Jan. 1800. 

2 lb. nth Feb. 1800. 3 lb. 4 Cast. Corr. iii. 222. 
5 Review, App. 323. 6 Corn. Corr. iii. 52. 



Not a single petition against the Union was presented by 
that body to the King. Lord-Lieutenant, or either House 
of Parliament. 

Theobald McKenna, formerly Secretary to the Catholic 
Committee, then a well-known body acting for the whole 
of the Irish Catholics, wrote two pamphlets in favour of 
the Union. 1 

Plowden informs us of some of the reasons which 
determined the Irish Catholics to give such support to 
the Union. " The severities and indignities practised 
upon them [the Catholics] after the rebellion by many 
of the Orange body, and the offensive affected confusion 
and use of the terms papist and rebel produced fresh 
soreness in the minds of many ; the pointed recollection 
of the long suffering of their body from their own legis- 
lature, and the grateful sense of the benefits they had 
received from the parental tenderness of their Sovereign, 
after the indignant rejection and contumely of the 
Irish Parliament ; all naturally tended to inspire the 
Catholics with plenary confidence and attachment to 
the Marquis Cornwallis and this favourite measure 
of his Government." 2 

1 Memoirs on the Projected Union and Constitutional Objections to 
the Government of Ireland by a Separate Legislature. 

2 jReview, vol. ii. pt. ii. 980. 


Union debates of 1800. 

When the Irish Parliament met on the 1 5th of January, 
1 Sco, the battle was practically won. The country was 
content with the terms of Union offered. Though the 
Government had not yet fully revealed the conditions 
of the proposed treaty between the two kingdoms, yet 
sufficient had leaked out to satisfy both the communities 
which made up the people of Ireland. Lord Castlereagh 
had communicated the outlines of the Government plan 
to the principal men of the country, and from these the 
suggested arrangements had transpired to the public in 
general. A marked change had come over the feeling of 
the country as early as April, 1 799, when it became known 
that every consideration would be shown to those classes 
whose interests were likely to be affected by the measure. 
And when the actual terms of the Union were explained 
by Lord Castlereagh in the House of Commons on the 
5th of February, they were received with general satis- 
faction. Mr., afterwards Baron Smith, writing at the very 
moment of their explanation, thus speaks of them : " The 
splendour of these terms supersedes all inferior arguments 
for union ; and the man must be more phlegmatic than 

M 2 


I desire to be, who can listen to them, and withhold his 
admiration. By these, as if the British constitution were 
not of itself a boon worthy of our acceptance, advantages 
are secured in commerce and finance equalling the fondest 
hopes we could have formed, and almost exceeding the 
powers of calculation. Upon a principle, the fairness of 
which is beyond dispute, the contribution of Ireland will 
be proportioned to its ability, and that ability be measured 
by an accurate criterion ; nor will any power be given to 
the Imperial Parliament of altering or revising this 
principle in any respect ; but merely of insuring its future 
application, and making the ability of Ireland the eternal 
and invariable standard of her contribution." 

On the first day of the meeting of Parliament, a speech 
from the throne was delivered by Lord Cornwallis, in 
which no reference was made to a Union, because that 
measure was intended to be made the subject of a distinct 
communication. After an address had been moved and 
seconded in the Commons, Sir Lawrence Parsons wishing 
to take the sense of the House on the question of Union, 
moved an amendment, declaring a desire for the con- 
tinuance of British connection, and the wish for the 
preservation of an independent resident Parliament. A 
debate ensued, in which Lord Castlereagh, the Eight 
Honourable David Latouche, the Attorney-General, and 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer were the principal 
speakers on the side of the Government ; Plunket, 
G rattan, Bushe, George Ponsonby, and Sir John Parnell, 
on the side of the Opposition. 

The speech of David Latouche, the head of a great 
banking firm, made a strong impression on the House. 



He declared that, in his opinion, a Union would promote 
peace and order in the country ; that it would benefit 
both the landed and commercial interests of Great Britain 
and Ireland ; and that it would open the way to the 
satisfaction of the claims of the Catholics. 

A difference was discernible between the opinions of 
the mover of the amendment and several of his sup- 
porters. The drift of Sir L. Parsons' arguments was that 
a Legislative Union with Great Britain would be at all 
times and under all possible circumstances disadvan- 
tageous to Ireland, whilst J. C. Beresford, Lord Cole, 
and the Eight Honourable George Ogle admitted that 
cases might occur where a union would be desirable. 
Ogle's speech annoyed the Opposition greatly. He said 
he disapproved of the conduct of many of the anti- 
Unionists, but that on such a question he would co-operate 
with them, "and though I shall never connect myself 
with such persons, yet on this ground I will co-operate 
with any man, laudable or not, with every man, with 
virtues or without them, whether he acts conscientiously 
or factiously ; I will avail myself of every man who 
defends the constitution." 1 

At about seven o'clock in the morning, when Mr. Egan 
had risen, and was dilating on the exertions of Mr. 
Grattan in the settlement of 1782, the latter gentleman 
entered the House, looking ill, and supported by his two 
friends, W. B. Ponsonby and Arthur Moore. Grattan had 
been elected the night before for AVicklow, having pur- 
chased his seat for 2,40o/. 2 The editor of the Cornwallis 

1 Hist, of the Debates, p. 27. Milliken, Dublin, 1800. 

2 Corn. Corr. iii. 161. 


Correspondence says that the fortunate moment for his 
entrance had been watched for, and that the scene 
was well got up, but that the trick was too palpable, 
and produced little effect. Grattan was able, however, 
to deliver a very long and inflammatory speech, which 
did more harm than good to his party. It was in 
this speech that Grattan, angry with the Catholic clergy 
for their support of the Union, called that body "a band 
of prostituted men engaged in the service of Govern- 
ment." He was effectively answered by Corry, and the 
amendment was rejected, at ten o'clock in the morning of 
the 1 6th, by a majority of forty -two, ninety-six voting 
for the amendment and a hundred and thirty-eight 
against it. 

On the 5th of February, Lord Castlereagh informed 
the House that he had a message to it from the Lord- 
Lieutenant, which he read. The message intimated that 
the Viceroy had the commands of the King to lay before 
the House for its consideration the resolutions of the 
British Parliament, " proposing and recommending a 
complete and entire union between Great Britain and 
Ireland, to be established by the mutual consent of both 
Parliaments, founded on equal and liberal principles, on 
the similarity of laws, constitution, and government, and 
on a sense of mutual interests and affection." Lord 
Castlereagh then proceeded to open up and explain at 
great length the proposed plan of the Union, and con- 
cluded by moving that the House should resolve itself 
into a committee to take into consideration the Lord- 
Lieutenant's message on the Wednesday following. On 
a division there appeared for the motion 158; and 



against it, 1 15. A majority cousequeiitly of forty- three 
were in favour of the Union. 

This was the largest division ever known in the Irish 
Commons. Including the Speaker, two hundred and 
seventy-eight out of three hundred were present. Though 
some seats were vacant, and some members had paired, 
twenty-two only were absent. 

Previous to the debate, Colonel Bagwell, on presenting 
a jjetition from the county of Tipperary against the 
Union, took occasion to say that, though he had sup- 
ported the measure on the 15th of January preceding, 
he was now determined to oppose it. He grounded his 
change of action on the number and respectability of 
the names attached to the petition he had presented. 
This gentleman's desertion was attended by that of his 
two sons. Including the Bagwells, seven members of the 
Unionist party left the Government on this occasion, 
making a difference of fourteen votes on a division. 

Two remarkable speeches were delivered in this debate. 
Mr. Dobbs, one of the members for Charlemont, had written 
a book to prove that a union with Great Britain was 
forbidden in the book of Daniel and the Revelation. On 
this occasion he concluded an able and high-minded 
speech with these words : "I tell you, sir, the hand of 
God has marked this country for His own. It was not 
for nothing that the harp of David with an angel in its 
front was made the arms of Ireland. It was not for 
nothing that the apostolic crowm is the crown of Ireland. 
It was not for nothing that the serpent and every veno- 
mous creature has been banished from the land. I tell 
the noble Lord, I tell you, sir, and this House, and I 


proclaim it to the British and Irish nation, that the 
independence of Ireland is written in the immutable 
records of Heaven." 1 

The other was a speech of Eichard Lovell Edgeworth, 
father of Maria Edgeworth. He commenced by saying 
that he had not made up his mind which way he should 
vote when he entered the House. He then proceeded to 
set forth the strongest arguments in favour of a Union, 
and ended with a violent philippic against the Govern- 
ment and the measure. " Notwithstanding," he added, 
"my own opinion is in favour of a Union." 2 On the 
23rd of January in the preceding year this gentleman 
had also voted against the Government, stating at the 
same time that he thought the measure of Union 
advisable. Grattan delivered the second of his anti- 
Union orations in this debate. 

In returning from the House to their respective homes 
some of the members were insulted by the populace for 
supporting the Union. The fear of personal injury in- 
duced an application to the Lord-Lieutenant for pro- 
tection. At the next meeting of the House a guard ot 
cavalry appeared for the preservation of peace and order. 
This measure of precaution was continued during the 
subsequent debates. 

In the House of Lords on the 10th of February a 
motion was made to take into consideration the message 
relative to a Union. A debate followed, which was made 
remarkable by the memorable speech of Lord Clare. 
His speech lasted four hours, and produced an effect on 

1 Report of Debate, p. 179. Moore, Dublin, 1800. 

2 lb. p. 207. 



the Lords and on " the audience, which was uncommonly 
numerous," 1 never surpassed by any delivered in a legis- 
lative assembly. It was in fact a review of the whole 
history of Ireland up to the moment of its delivery. 
Lords Downshire, Charlemont, and Bellamont spoke 
against the motion, but it was carried by a majority of 
forty-nine ; the numbers being seventy-five for, and 
twenty-six against. The whole minority protested "on 
this occasion. 2 

Lord Downshire in his speech condemned the conduct 
of the Irish Parliament at the time of the Eegency 
dispute. lie thought that that would have been the 
proper time for ministers to have introduced the question 
of union, and added that, if a period of tranquillity and 
peace were to arrive, and the subject were then brought 
forward and submitted to the consideration of the nation, 
he would give it his best assistance. 

There were a few subsequent debates in the Upper 
House on some of the articles of Union, one particularly 
on the 22nd of March, when Chief Baron Yelverton 
made an able speech in favour of the measure. But, as 
its principle had been adopted by the Lords, and there 
was on every occasion a large majority for the Union, we 
shall not further refer to them. 

On the 14th of February a motion was made in the 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 184. 

2 Leinster, Downshire, Pery (by proxy), Meath, Granard, Ludlow 
(by proxy), Moira (by proxy), Arran, Charlemont, Kingston, Mount- 
cashel, Farnharu, Massy (by proxy), Enniskillen, Belmore (byprox)), 
"Dillon, Strangford, Powerscourt, De Vesci (by proxy), William 
Down and Connor, Kichard "Waterford and Lismore, Louth, Lismore 
Sunderlin, Bellamont, Blaney. 


House of Commons that a general Committee should 
proceed to the consideration of the terms of union. 
After the delivery of several speeches, a postponement 
was proposed by the Opposition with a view to the pro- 
duction of documents. This was rejected by a majority 
of thirty-seven. Another debate and a new division fol- 
lowed, when a hundred and fifty-seven to a hundred and 
ten refused to delay the discussion. Lord Castlereagh, 
having attained his object, which was to show that the 
Government majority was increasing, and that no im- 
pression had been made on the House since the last 
debate, consented to an adjournment. 1 

On the 17th, the day to which the House was 
adjourned, the resolution preliminary to the articles of 
Union was, after a debate of eighteen hours, carried by 
a majority of forty-six, the voting being 161 to 115. 
This resolution was : " That in order to promote and 
secure the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland, 
and to consolidate the strength, power, and resources of 
the British Empire, it will be advisable to concur in 
such measures as may best tend to unite the two 
kingdoms in such manner and on such terms and con- 
ditions as may be established by Acts of the respective 
Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland." In and by 
this resolution the principle of a Union was adopted. All 
that followed was merely the settlement of the precise 
conditions on which the incorporation should take place. 

This was a stormy debate. In opening it the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Corry, adverted to the 

1 Lord Castlereagh at first suspected that the motion for adjourn- 
ment was the result of a wish to delay the discussion. 



inflammatory proceedings of men of education ar?d 
property, and particularly to the speeches and writings 
of members of Parliament. He alluded specially to 
Grattan, and quoted many passages from his address to 
the citizens of Dublin, which he conceived had con- 
tributed to the late rebellion. Grattan vindicated himself 
in strong terms, whereupon Corry replied with increased 
severity. Grattan rejoined with greater warmth, "pro- 
digally using terms of pointed censure and gross con- 
tumely, if not of scurrilous abuse." 1 G rattan's language 
produced a challenge from Corry. The hostile orators 
met in a duel, in which Corry was wounded, though 
not dangerously, as he was able to reappear in the 
House on the 19th. 

Mr. William Johnson, afterwards a judge, in this 
debate indignantly denied the insinuations of corrupt 
influence thrown out against those who were in favour 
of a Union. " It was said," he exclaimed, " that they 
had been bought. But what had bought them ? the 
state of the country and the fate of Europe. What had 
bought others had also bought him. The question had 
been forced upon him by the prevailing calamities, and 
he had examined it from no other motive or impulse 
than an anxious desire of meeting the peculiar evils of 
the country, which he reviewed under three aspects, 
constitution, internal quiet, and commerce." 

On the 21st February, the first three articles of the 
plan of Union were carried without a division, and the 
first of the following January was fixed for the com- 
mencement of the Union. 

1 Coote's Hist, of the Union, 426. 


On the 4th of March, George Ponsonby brought for- 
ward a motion respecting the sense of the nation on the 
subject of the Union. He said that His Majesty would 
not have persevered in recommending the measure un- 
less he believed that the people were in its favour, and 
urged the House to remove this delusion by an intima- 
tion of the truth. A knowledge of the number of 
petitions against it would correct the error. He there- 
fore proposed an address to the King, stating that 
petitions against the Union had been presented from 
twenty-six counties and various cities and towns. Lord 
Castlereagh replied that seventy-four declarations had 
been made in its favour by public bodies in the king- 
dom ; that nineteen of these had proceeded from the 
freeholders of counties, and many of the remainder 
from the chief towns and cities. He contended that in 
these the true expression of the sense of the loyal and 
propertied classes was to be found. A general debate 
followed, which lasted till six o'clock in the morning, 
when the house divided on the question of adjournment, 
155 for; 107 against — a majority for Government of 

The discussion was renewed on the 13th of March, 
when Sir John Parnell moved that an address should be 
presented to the King, praying him to call a new Par- 
liament before any final arrangement of a Union should 
be adopted. On this occasion, Mr. Saurin, a nominee of 
Lord Downshire, urged the expediency of attending to 
the sense of the nation, and maintained that, if laws 
should be enacted against the will of the public, they 
would not be obligatory, and the right of resistance, 



would revert to the people. This doctrine was so dan- 
gerous that even Grattan felt it went too far, and he was 
obliged to soften it down by recommending the appeal 
not as a reference to the mere multitude, but to the con- 
stituent body only. Lord Castlereagh said the Parliament 
enjoyed the confidence both of His Majesty and the 
people, and that a dissolution was therefore unnecessary, 
llu warmly repelled Saurins doctrine as highly uncon- 
stitutional, and tending to sedition. The motion was 
negatived by a majority of forty-six. 

When it was proposed on the 19th that the House 
should be resumed for the purpose of receiving the 
report of the committee, a debate took place. Grattan 
delivered his third oration against the Union on this 
occasion. Two divisions unfavourable to the Opposition 
took place ; in one, Government had a majority of forty- 
two ; in the other a majority of forty-seven. 

The report being presented to the House on the 21st, 
the Opposition did not venture to challenge a division, 
as they thought it imprudent to risk another after the 
unfavourable results of the 19th. A meeting of the body 
had been held on the preceding day at Lord Charle- 
mont's, when it was determined that there should be no 
contest on this occasion, but that the minor speakers 
of the party might, if they pleased, make protests 
against the measure. Accordingly, several of them, as 
Sir John Macartney, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Egan, delivered 
inflammatory speeches. After these gentlemen had ex- 
pressed their sentiments, the resolutions received the 
sanction of the House. A message was then sent to the 
Lord?, importing that the Commons had agreed to the 


articles of Union. On the 27th, the Peers intimated 
that they had adopted them with some alterations and 
additions. These amendments were readily approved by 
the Commons, and Lord Castlereagh immediately pro- 
posed an address, in which both Houses concurred. In 
it they declared that they cordially embraced the prin- 
ciple of incorporating Great Britain and Ireland into 
one kingdom by a complete and entire union of their 
legislatures. That they considered the resolutions of 
the British Parliament as wisely calculated to form the 
basis of such a settlement. That by these propositions 
they had been guided in their proceedings, and that the 
resolutions now offered by them were those articles 
which, if approved by the Parliament of Great Britain, 
they were ready to confirm and ratify, in order that the 
same might be established for ever by the mutual consent 
of both Parliaments. 

The resolutions of the Irish Parliament were forwarded 
to England, and, being thence sent back, were referred 
by the Commons to a committee. A report was soon 
presented and examined. All the alterations in this 
were adopted by the Commons, and afterwards by the 

On the 2 1st of May Lord. Castlereagh moved for leave 
to bring in a Bill for the Union of Great Britain and 
Ireland. On this motion a debate took place, but the 
House was evidently tired of the subject, and unwilling 
to enter upon a fresh discussion. The House divided, 
and the motion was carried by a majority of sixty, the 
largest which had yet occurred. 

On the 26th, after the Bill had been read a second 



time, Grattan opposed its committal. He proposed a 
delay to the ist of August, that it might be more fully 
examined. He again discussed the principle of the 
measure. It was a breach of a solemn covenant, on 
whose basis the separate, reciprocal, and conjoint power 
of the countries relied ; an innovation promoted by the 
influence of martial law ; an unauthorised assumption 
of a competency to destroy the independence of the 
realm, an unjustifiable attempt to injure the prosperity 
of the country. The Bill would be, quoad the Consti- 
tution, equivalent to a murder, and quoad the Govern- 
ment, a separation ; and Ireland, by a Union, would be 
reduced to a state of slavery. This was the fourth and 
last of his anti-Union orations. 

Lord Castlereagh censured Grattan for inviting future 
rebellion by cloaking it with the idea of liberty, and he 
asked whether it was the part of a good citizen to excite 
the people against a new system which was about to be 
established by the law of the land. The House divided 
early on the question of committal, which was carried by 
a majority of forty-five. 

Grattan then rose and moved that the Bill should be 
committed on the 1st of September. He took this 
opportunity of making a personal attack on Lord 
Castlereagh. He made general charges of puerility, 
arrogance, and presumption. Lord Castlereagh replied 
with great calmness and dignity, and said he despised 
the idle parade of parliamentary spirit, which led to 
nothing, and which denied in offensive terms what 
had never been uttered. As a reasoner and debater, 
Lord Castlereagh was far superior to Grattan, and his 



conduct throughout this debate raised him greatly in the 
estimation of the House. An impartial witness who was 
present, Sir J. Crawford, was of opinion that "Lord 
Castlereagh had fairly thrown Grattan on his back." 1 A 
second division took place, when Grattan 's motion was 
rejected by a majority of forty. A debate then fol- 
lowed on Lord Castlereagh's motion for committing the 
Bill for the ensuing Friday, which lasted till eleven 
o'clock. By this time the supporters of the Union, who 
had not expected an early division, were present, and 
when the question was put the Opposition declined to 

On the 6th of June Lord Corry moved that an 
address should be presented to the King praying that he 
would put an end to the measure of Union. The 
address was, in fact, a pamphlet, and is said by his son 
to have been drawn up by Grattan, 2 while Lord Corn- 
wallis asserts that " it had been preparing for many days 
by a committee of the leaders of the Opposition ; " and 
adds, " I am informed the groundwork was laid by the 
Speaker." It occupies more than fourteen quarto pages 
of the appendix to Plowden's history, and took fifty 
minutes to read in the House. Grattan did not speak 
on this occasion. The motion for the address was 
rejected by a majority of fifty-eight. The report on 
the Union Bill was then received, and, upon the question 
that it should be read, the House again divided, and 
the reading was carried by a majority of sixty-five. 

The Bill was read a third time on the 7th of June. 
In the debate which followed, and which was the last 

1 Com. Corr. iii. 243. 2 Grattaris Life, v. app. 574. 



on the Union, some violent speeches were delivered. 
Plunket talked of " the villany of Government." With 
the exception of Plunket,. none of the greater actors 
took part in the discussion. Mr. Dobbs made an extra- 
ordinary harangue. He repeated his arguments against 
the Union, founded on the Book of Daniel and the 
Revelation. He declared his confident expectation of the 
speedy appearance of the Messiah as a temporal prince at 
Armagh. Entertaining these ideas, he was not alarmed 
at the progress of a Bill which he detested, as he was 
convinced it never would be operative. 

After the Bill was read a third time in the Commons, 
it was carried up to the Peers by Lord Castlereagh. On 
its second reading in the Upper House Lords Farnham 
and Bellamont proposed some clauses which were nega- 
tived. It was then committed. It passed the committee 
without amendment, was reported in due form, and 
after an uninteresting debate, was read a third time and 
passed on the 13th of June by a majority of twenty- 
seven, the voting being forty-one to fourteen. The 
Royal assent was given on the 1st of August, the 
anniversary of the accession of the House of Brunswick 
to the British crown. The next day the Lord-Lieutenant 
put an end to the session with a Speech from the Throne. 



Accusations against the Government. — Compensation to the 
proprietors of boroughs. — Bestowal of peerages. — Alleged inter- 
ference with the right of petitioning. — Dismissal of Government 

"Parliamentary reform," said Pitt in 1785, on 
introducing his scheme in the British House of 
Commons, " could only be brought about by two means, 
by an act of power, or by an adequate consideration 
which might induce bodies or individuals to part with 
rights which they considered as a species of valuable 
inheritance or of personal property. To a reform by 
violence he, and he was sensible many others, had an 
insurmountable objection, but he considered a reform in 
the representation of the people an object of such value 
and importance that he did not hesitate in his own mind 
to propose and to recommend to the House the estab- 
lishment of a fund for the purpose of purchasing the 
franchise of such boroughs as might be induced to 
accept it under the circumstances which he had 
mentioned." 1 Pitt's proposal was to raise the sum of 
one million to purchase from thirty-six boroughs their 
right of returning members, and to distribute the seats 
1 Cobbett, Pari. Hist. xxv. 442. 


17 ( J 

thus acquired among the counties and populous towns. 
The sum proposed to be raised for the purchase of seats 
would have provided upwards of 27,000/. for each 
borough. But Pitt thought that this price was likely 
to be considered inadequate, for his plan further pro- 
vided that, if any of the boroughs considered his offer 
insufficient, the money should go on accumulating until 
it reached an amount which would enable the Govern- 
ment to propose such terms as could not be refused. 
This scheme of Pitt's was approved and supported by, 
amongst many others, the high-minded Wilberforce. 

Fifteen years afterwards, at the time of the Union, 
Pitt did not hesitate to offer to the proprietors of Irish 
boroughs terms of compensation for the loss of their 
rights, but their compensation was settled upon a much 
lower scale than that proposed for English proprietors. 
The Irish scheme was regulated by the then market 
value of such property, which was about 16,000/. for a 
borough and 8,oco/. for a half borough, as all the Irish 
places returned two representatives. In 1797 the price 
of a borough was, as Grattan informs us, from 14,000/. 
to i6,coo/., and their value was rapidly rising. 1 

The growth of a private interest in Parliament and 
the practice of buying and selling the privilege of legis- 
lation were undoubtedly repugnant to the spirit and 
theory of representative government. But the owner- 
ship of boroughs had grown up insensibly, and they had 
long been looked upon and treated as private property. 

1 " It is known that the price of boroughs is from 14,000/. to 
16,000/., and has in the course of not many years increased one- 
third." — Address to the citizens of Dublin, 1797. 


<f It has always been a characteristic of the English mind 
to pay regard to vested rights, if these rights have 
acquired strength from the custom of generations and 
the tacit acquiescence of the public. The dispensation of 
justice in a country affects all the subjects, and can 
never be regarded as the source of private advantage, 
yet when the heritable jurisdictions in Scotland were 
abolished, full compensation was granted to the in- 
dividuals whose interests were affected. 1 In the case of 
the Irish boroughs it must be remembered that, as 
Clrattan tells us, many of these had been originally 
granted by the crown to individuals as private property 
distinctly. 2 It is easy to see how the system of granting 
some boroughs to individuals as private possessions 
begot the idea that others might be legally acquired, 
We have seen that Grattan himself, w T ho declaimed so 
often against borough ownership, purchased seats on two 
occasions. ^This custom was as general in England as 
in Ireland, and it did not excite any feeling of repug- 
nance in that kingdom at this time. Many English 
statesmen believed that the system of private nomina- 
tion to seats in Parliament was a good one, and 
pointed, as an argument in its favour, to its results. 
History informs us of a long line of distinguished 
men who owed to this custom their first introduction 
into public life. The names of many such will 
at once recur to our readers, We need only mention 

1 A sum of 161,000/. was paid on the abolition of these juris- 

2 "Most of the forty boroughs created by James were so. It 
appears from the grants themselves that they were intended to be 
private property." — Pari. Beg. xiii. 160. 



some of these names : the great Lord Chatham, Pitt, 
Burke. Canning, Fox, Wyndham, Brougham, Sir Samuel 
Romilly, Lord North, Lord Granville, and the Marquis 
AVellesley in England ; and Flood, Grattan and Plunket 
in Ireland. The system may have been bad in Ireland, 
but it was quite as bad in England, and infinitely 
worse in Scotland. In England 371 members out of 
513 were nominated by the Government, by peers, and 
commoners. In Scotland there was not a single free 
seat, the whole of the Scotch members, forty-five in 
number, being nominated by peers or influential 
commoners. 1 

It has been objected that no compensation what- 
ever should have been allowed to the proprietors of 
Irish boroughs, inasmuch as the return of members to 
Parliament is a public trust. It is hard to understand 
this squeamish delicacy of feeling in a generation which 
has witnessed the disestablishment of the Irish Church, 
and the payment of large sums to owners of livings for 
the withdrawal of their rights of patronage. The cases 
are exactly similar. If the return of members to 
Parliament is a public trust, the nomination of religious 
pastors is no less a sacred duty. If the patrons of 
livings may be compensated, surely the proprietors of 
borouohs deserved something to re-imburse them for the 
loss of long acknowledged rights, caused by a radical 
change in the constitution. But this nice criticism dis- 

1 In England and Wales the nominees of Government were 
sixteen; of peers, 218; of commoners, 137. In Scotland peers 
disposed of thirty-one seats; commoners of fourteen. — Oldfield's 
Hist, of Representation, vol. vi. 300. 


regards the identity of the cases. It is wrong, exclaims 
this narrow and peevish morality, to buy the power of 
returning members to an earthly Parliament ; it is right 
to purchase the power of nominating the ministers of 

^ To have refused compensation to the owners of 
boroughs in Ireland would have had the effect of virtu- 
ally packing the House of Lords against the Union, for 
men could not have been expected to vote for a measure 
which they knew would deprive them of a valuable 
property. It would have stirred up the proprietors of 
these places as a body to use whatever influence they 
possessed over the representatives of the people for the 
purpose of Massing their judgment and defeating the 
measure. The only way to render them impartial and 
capable of weighing coolly the advantages and dis- 
advantages of the Union, was to offer a fair and reason- 
able compensation for the loss of rights which had 
grown up by the tacit endurance of the Government 
and of the people. 

The Act 1 for making compensation to bodies corporate 
and individuals in respect of such places as should 
cease to return members after the Union, was, if 
not drawn in England, seen and examined by Pitt, 
who advised that its terms should be liberal. 2 It was 
introduced into the Irish Commons in June, 1800, 

1 40 George III. c. 34. 

2 " I inclose the draft of the Compensation Bill, which your lord 
ship may put into the way of being completed. Upon your queries, 
Mr. Pitt wishes the liberal line to be adopted." — Cooke to Lord 
Castlereagh, Cast. Corr. iii. 300. 



and was read a third time within the same month. 
During its progress through the Lower House it never 
met with an opposition numbering more than seven. 
In the Lords one member dissented and three protested 
against it. But their protest was not grounded on any 
accusation of corruption ; indeed, one of the peers 
who protested — Lord Belmore — received 30,000/. 
for his two boroughs of Ballyshannon and 

The Act established a Court for the proof of losses, 
and provided that sworn Commissioners should ascertain, 
on the oaths of informants, what allowances and com- 
pensation should be given to bodies corporate and 
individuals in respect of towns and boroughs which 
should cease to return members. A sum of 15,000/. 
was to be awarded for each place ceasing to send any 
representative, and payment of the compensation was 
to be made by five annual instalments of twenty per 
cenr. each. There was no concealment whatever ; 
the Court and the Act establishing it were equally 
public. The provision was general and not one-sided, 
and we shall see that the anti-Unionists took full 
advantage of it, in the proportion of their numbers 
when compared with that of the Unionists. If the 
compensation given by this Court and under this public 
Act amounted to bribery, the English and Irish 
noblemen and gentlemen who availed themselves of 
the opportunity were content to receive the wages of 
corruption openly and in the light of day. 

The Act was limited to places which should cease 
to return any member. If the place was completely 


disfranchised, the sum of 15,000/. was to be paid 
to its proprietors, or to the borough itself. If, on 
the other hand, the place continued to send a member, 
a single seat in the Imperial Parliament was to be 
considered as of equal value with the two former seats 
in the Irish legislature, and no compensation whatever 
in money was to be given in this case. 

Eighty -four boroughs were completely disfranchised 
by the Act of Union, and thirty-four places were 
retained as returning members to the united Parliament. 
The places retained were to return each one member, 
with the exception of Dublin and Cork, which were 
allowed two respectively* 

As eighty-four places were disfranchised, there was 
a sum of 1,260,000/. paid under the Act. As it has 
been, and still is, alleged, that the Act of Union was 
carried by this system of compensation to the pro- 
prietors of Irish boroughs — or bribery, as it is called 
— it becomes necessary to examine the question. 

Let us see how much of this sum was paid to 
persons who could have used their influence in passing 
the Act, or to those who voted for that measure. 
There are certain amounts which must be deducted 
from the principal sum before we cau estimate the 
moneys which were distributed among those Irish 
proprietors who were likely to exercise any influence 
direct or indirect on those who voted in the House 
of Commons for the Union. 

1. A sum of 67,500/ was paid to Englishmen who 
owned boroughs in Ireland. Of this amount, the 
Duke of Devonshire received 30,000/ ; Lord Darnley, 



15,000/. ; Lord Wellesley, 1 15,000/. ; and Lord Lyt- 
telton, 7,500/.- Here it may be remarked that if 
the Irish proprietors were bribed by the compensation 
paid to them for their boroughs, these Englishmen were 
also bribed. To what absurdities are we driven by this 
accusation ! The Duke of Devonshire, one of our 
greatest English nobles, and the head of a historic house, 
bribed : and that not secretly, but openly and under a 
public Act of Parliament ! The intelligence of that 
man is not to be envied who can believe that such 
a thing is even possible. 

2. A sum of 60,000/. was awarded to the four 
borouohs which had no owners. These boroughs were 
St. Canice, Clogher, Old Leighliu and Swords. The 
compensation for the first three was paid to the 
Commissioners of First Fruits, to be laid out and 
invested in the public funds, and the annual proceeds 
thereof to be applied to the same uses and purposes to 
which the first fruits were applicable by law, and in 
such a manner as should lead most effectually to promote 
the residence of the clergy. The compensation awarded 
to the borough of Swords was paid to the Lord Chan- 
cellor, the Archbishop of Dublin and others, as trustees, 
to be laid out by them in building schools and in other 
works for the general use of the town. 3 

3. A sum of 30,000/. was paid to the executors of 
Henry Bruen, who died in 1795, before the Union was 

1 Lord Wellesley is called an Englishman, as his whole career 
was English. 

2 Liber Munerum Pub. Ilibernice, part vii. 171. 
2 lb. 



even talked of, 1 and 18,750/. was paid to two ladies — ■ 
the Countess of Wicklow and the Countess of 
Lanesborough. 2 

If we deduct these amounts from the principal sum, 
there will remain a sum of about 1,100,000/., which 
was distributed among Irishmen who were the pro- 
prietors of boroughs or shares in them. Now, of this 
amount, upwards of 400,000/. was actually paid to 
anti-Unionists. 3 The question arises — were these men 
bribed ? Members of both Houses who had opposed 
the Union by every means in their power, even Peers 
who protested against the measure, and whose protests 
may still be read in their journals, felt no shame in 
receiving the allowance given by law for their boroughs, 
for they considered it not as a bribe, but as fair 

The cases of some of the leading anti- Unionists in 
the Lords and Commons, may be mentioned here. 

The Duke of Leinster during the whole progress of 
the Union opposed it, and protested against it, yet he 
received 28,800/. as compensation; 15,000/ for the 
borough of Kildare, and 13,800/ for his share in that 
of Athy. 

The whole of Lord Downshire's enormous influence 4 

1 As to the date of his death see Corn. Corr. i. 157. 

2 Liber Munerum Pub. Hibernice, part vii. 171. 

3 The sum given to anti-Unionists was 434,850/. 

4 " Down county contains 30,000 freeholders, who elect the 
friends of the Marquis of Downshire without contest. To insure 
this object, the Marquis's estate has been divided, sub-divided, and 
again divided until it has become a warren of freeholders, and the 
scheme has completely succeeded." — Wakefield's Ireland, ii. 304. 



was directed against the Union. He was able to 
obtain the signatures of 17.500 freeholders of his 
county to a petition against the Union in 1800. He 
even overpassed, as we have seen, the limits of legality 
in his opposition to it, yet he received 52,000/. for his 
boroughs and shares of boroughs. 

Lord Granard protested against the Union ; yet he 
obtained 30.000/. for his boroughs of Mullingar and 
St. Johnstown. 

Lord Ik'lmore protested, and his son, Lord Cony, 
was, as we have seen, a leading and influential anti- 
Unionist in the Commons. Lord Belmore received 
30,000/. for his boroughs of Bally shannon and 

Lord Lismore protested. This nobleman was paid 
22,500/. ; 15,000/. for the borough of Enniscorthy, and 
7,500/. for a share in Fethard. 

Lords Charlemont, Kingstown, and Arran protested ; 
yet they received 15,000/. each, for their boroughs of 
Charlemont, Boyle, and Donegal. 

Lords Ludlow and Belvedere protested. The former 
received 7,500/., the latter 3.750/., for their shares in 

We see the same readiness to avail themselves of the 
Act allowing compensation in the leaders of the anti- 
Unionists in the House of Commons. 

The Speaker, the Right Honourable John Foster, the 
recognised leader of the anti- Unionists, received 7,500/. 
for a half-share in the borough of Dunleer. 1 

1 This orentleman also received an annuity of 5,038/. 8s. \d. as 
compensation for his office of Speaker. 


The Eight Honourable George Ponsonby, afterwards 
Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and for some years the leader 
of the Opposition in the British House of Commons, the 
friend of Grattan, and the sharer in all his views of 
reform, received 15,000/. for his borough of Banagher. 

Sir John ParneH, second only to Mr. Foster in the 
ranks of the anti-Unionists, received 7,500/. for his half 
share in Maryborough. 

Mr. Tighe, a steady and honourable opponent of the 
measure, received 30,000/. for his two boroughs of 
Inistiogue and AVicklow. 

Sir John Freke, John Latouche, Gustavus Lambart, 
the Buxton family, and that of the Kings, accepted 
each 15,000/., and Henry Coddington 7,500/. 

There was not a single borough proprietor, whether 
English or Irish, who did not accept the compensation 
offered to him under the Act. In 1783 several of the 
Irish proprietors voluntarily proposed to give up their 
rights of private nomination without any remuneration 
whatever, in order to help forward a scheme of reform. 1 
Yet the whole body of these proprietors, without an 
exception, in 1800 accepted the terms offered to them. 
How is it to be accounted for that there was not one 
high-minded man among them in this latter year, except 
on the supposition that all felt they could receive with a 
clear conscience a compensation for their rights and 
privileges ? 

In fact, the Act did not provide compensation of any 
kind for many of these proprietors. The rule, that all 

1 History of the Proceedings and Debates of the Volunteers, Dublin, 



places should be excluded from allowances from which 
members were to be sent to the Imperial Parliament, 
and that one seat in it should be considered as of equal 
value with two seats in the Irish House, was rigidly 
carried out, and the effect of the rule was to deprive 
many patrons of any compensation at all. Thus, Lord 
De Clifford was able to return four members, 1 two from 
Kinsale and two from Downpatrick ; but, as these 
boroughs retained one seat each, no compensation was 
allowed. Lord Ely for a seat at Wexford ; Lord Shannon, 
for a seat at Youghal ; the Duke of Devonshire for one 
at Bandon, and one at Dungarvan ; and Lord Abercorn 
for two at Dungannon received no compensation. The 
Primate could return two members at Armagh, yet no 
allowance was made to him. The patrons of Belfast, 
Carlow, New Ross, Ennis, Tralee, and Sligo, within 
which places the voters numbered only thirteen, and 
where the elections were entirely under the control of 
individuals, were allowed no compensation. The same 
was the case, with the difference of a small increase in 
the number of electors, at Athlone, Cashel, Clonmel, 
Coleraine, Dundalk, Enniskillen, Lisburn. and Port- 
arlington, yet no compensation was given to the persons 
who decided the returns at these places. 2 It is absurd 
to say that the terms allowed under the Act com- 
pensated the owners of Irish boroughs, as a body, 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 43. 

2 See Corn. Corr. iii. 234, where it is stated, "a contest had 
scarcely ever occurred in any of them." In Portarlington and 
Enniskillen the number of electors was fifteen ; in Cashel twenty- 
six ; in Dundalk thirty-two ; in Coleraine thirty-six ; in Lisburn 
fifty-six ; in Clonmel 105 ; in Athlone seventy-one. 


for the rights and privileges which the Union took 

Even those proprietors who were paid at the rate of 
15,000/. for a borough, or 7,500/. for a half, were barely 
compensated, if compensation means a full equivalent 
for property taken away. In 1 793, Grattan informs us, 1 
the price of a seat had risen to 3,000/., and Lord Castle- 
reagh in 1799 estimated it at 4000/. 2 The Parliament 
lasted for eight years. This sum of 3,000/ for a seat 
would allqw the owner about 5 per cent, for the money 
expended on the purchase, and besides he had many 
chances in his favour. The death or promotion of the 
sitting member, his removal — if a military man — to a 
foreign station, or a dissolution of Parliament, restored 
the seat to its proprietor, who might sell it anew. If 
we add to these considerations the prestige such property 
afforded to its owner, we can hardly estimate 15,000/ 
for a borough carrying with it the perpetual right of 
nominating two members, or 7,500/ for its half, a full 
compensation, particularly when it is remembered that 
the payment was not concluded till the expiration of 
five years. 

But if we look closer at the matter, is not this idea of 
bribing the borough proprietors and passing the Act of 
Union by their influence, far fetched and a little un- 
intelligible ? What had these proprietors to do with the 
passing of the Act through the Commons ? They were 
merely reversioners, and the decision of the question 
rested not with them, but with their tenants in pos- 
session. To bribe the three hundred members of the 
1 Pari. Hey. xiii. 162. 2 Cast. Corr. ii. 150. 



House of Commons would surpass the means of any 
Government. Yet, this is the body which the Govern- 
ment, if they had any idea of bribery, would have 
naturally approached. The last Irish Parliament which 
accepted the Union met on the 9th of January, 
1798, and in 1S00 there were still five years of its 
life to run. During this time the borough pro- 
prietors had no authority to interfere with the judg- 
ment or decision of its members. A large number of 
these had purchased their scats, and were perfectly 
independent of the patrons. 1 They would certainly 
have resented any attempt to coerce their opinion, 
particularly on such a question as the continuance of 
the assembly in which they sat. No doubt some 
members had been returned by the patrons from motives 
of confidence or affection, but even these nominees could 
not have been expected to yield on such a momentous 
occasion, and to sacrifice all their future hopes of 
distinction and advancement. How are we to account^ 
for the blindness of Government in attempting to allure 
with their bribes the intermediate borough proprietors, 
who had only at the best a very indirect influence, and 
neglecting the real and efficient factors ? We shall leave 
the question to be answered by those who declaim without 
proof against the corruption of the English Government. 

In opposition to declamation and the insinuation of 
the bribery of individual members we have positive 
evidence. Lord Castlereagh, Lord Hawkesley, Sir John 

1 There were fifty barristers in the last Irish Parliament. Lord 
Castlereagh thought that they gave 4,000^. each for their seats. — 
( r ast Corr. ii. 151. 


Blaquiere, the Prime Serjeant, and Chancellor Cony in 
their places in Parliament always met with a direct denial 
this charge of corruption ; and when the allegations were 
challenged, the accusers did not venture to bring forward 
their proofs. 1 Though the opponents of the Union 
attempted unsuccessfully to substantiate their accusation 
of intimidation, they never made an effort to prove any 
case of bribery. On the 8th of February, 1 800, a late 
period in the contest, Lord Corn wal lis in a private letter 
to his brother, writes in such a manner as shows that the 
Government neither had the means to bribe, nor the 
wish to resort to such proceedings : " The enemy to my 
certain knowledge, offer 5,000/. ready money for a vote ; 
if we had the means and were disposed to make such 
vile use of them, we dare not trust the credit of Gov- 
ernment in the hands of such rascals." 2 Lord Plunket 
was one of those who, in the heat of the Union debates, 
most frequently made the charge of corruption 3 against 
the English Government. In 1803, Plunket was ap- 
pointed Solicitor-General, and on the death of Lord 
Castlereagh he wrote in 1823 to that nobleman's brother 
a letter of condolence, in which he thus speaks of the 
deceased statesman : " Your lordship does me no more 
than justice in estimating the feelings with which the 
memory of the late Marquis of Londonderry affects and 
must ever affect my mind. His friendship and con- 
fidence were the prime causes which induced His Majesty's 
Government to desire my services. And I can truly acid 
that my unreserved reliance on the cordiality of his 

1 See next chapter. 2 Corn. Corr, iii. 184. 

3 " The black corruption of the Castle," as he termed it, 



feelings towards me, joined to my perfect knowledge of 
the wisdom and liberality of all his public objects and 
opinions, were the principal causes which induced me to 
accept the honour which was proposed to me. Nothing 
can ever occur to me in political life so calamitous as the 
event which, in common with all his country and Europe, 
I deeply deplore." 

Are these the words of a man who believed that Lord 
Castlereaofh carried the Union by a mixture of intrigue 
and violence ? Plunket was the most formidable and 
most eloquent of the opponents of that measure, and 
never relaxed in his efforts against it. His subsequent 
career, and the splendour of his advocacy of the Catholic 
claims are well known. Is it possible to come to the 
conclusion that, if he had believed the accusations of 
corruption, he would have accepted office under Lord 
Castlereagh at a time when the Union proceedings were 
still fresh in his mind, and that after many years he 
would have attended his obsequies with praise of " all 
his public objects and opinions" ? 

Another accusation has been brought against Pitt and 
the English Government — that by a lavish bestowal of 
peerages they bribed or corrupted the Irish Parliament. 
It is misleading to speak of the " Irish Government " 
in this matter as is sometimes done, for there has 
never been in Ireland such a thing since the time of 
James II. The Irish Chief Governor is the minister 
and servant of the Central Executive, with which he is 
in constant communication, and the orders and policy 
of which he merely carries out. This accusation has 
only to be fairly looked at to vanish into thin air. The 



only wonder is that at least twice the number of peerages 
was not granted. In 1779, Lord North in one day, and 
on no special occasion, created eighteen Irish peerages, 
and raised five viscounts and seven barons a step in 
their order; that is thirty in all. 1 In 1800, after a 
protracted contest which lasted nearly two years — after 
a fundamental change in the Irish peerage, which, from 
a self-representative became a represented body — after 
services which statesmen seldom obtain from their sup- 
porters, and which, if the Union had not been carried, 
would certainly have excluded those followers from 
public life for the remainder of their days — and after 
the Unionists had borne every contumely and reproach 
during the long struggle, for the anti- Unionists repre- 
sented their opponents as venal traitors to their country 
— Pitt rewarded forty 2 of his followers. With a sparing 
hand he created twenty new Irish peerages ; sixteen 
peers were promoted a step in their order, and four 
English peerages were granted. 3 The vast majority 

1 Leeky, iv. 441. 

2 In the list of Union honours given by the editor of the 
Cornwallis Correspondence, there are at least six mistakes. Lord 
Inchiquin obtained neither his Irish marquisate nor his English 
barony for Union services. " Lord Inchiquin," says Cornwallis, 
"has not the smallest weight or consequence in this country." The 
Bandon and O'Neill peerages had been promised before the rebellion 
broke out (Corn. Corr. iii. 245). Lord Henniker did not obtain his 
peerage for such services (ib. iii. 246) ; nor did Lord Erris. Lord 
Cornwallis, though he transmitted Colonel King's request for this 
honour, refused to recommend it (ib. iii. 311). It is extremely 
doubtful whether Lord Charles Fitzgerald received his Barony of 
Lecale, or Viscount Castlestewart his earldom, for any such services. 

3 Five Irish peers were created to the English peerage, but one of 



who had borne the heat of the day, and who had 
contributed no small share to the extinction of the 
rebellion, were dismissed without a word of com- 
mendation or a mark of regard. 1 

At the end of every session of Parliament we are 
astonished to hear of the elevation of many to the 
peerage who are not a whit taller or better than their 
fellow-men, and wdiose only claim to such an honour is 
that they have supported their party. Yet we affect to 
wonder at the comparatively few creations which marked 
the end of a lengthened and momentous contest that 
divided families and excited an amount of bitterness 
rarely to be found in political struggles. In the conflict 
respecting the Union, the Government had to oppose an 
aristocratic and powerful faction, and during its whole 
progress their supporters were exposed to rancorous 
imputations and party hatred. Pitt did well to recom- 
pense some of the followers who throughout this long 
struocrle never failed him, and never relaxed their 
assistance in passing a measure which they believed to 
be essential to the salvation of their country. But he 
did ill in for^ettino- the eminent services which the Irish 
peerage and gentry had rendered in putting down the 
rebellion. If we further consider that the removal of 

these was Lord Inchiquiu, who did not receive his peerage for Union 
services. — Corn. Corr. iii. 264. 

1 " Our friends have submitted to the severest attendance ever 
known in the history of Parliament with unexampled patience. . . . 
Our sittings have never broken up earlier than twelve at night, and 
have frequently lasted till twelve in the day. Many of our friends 
are really confined on account of illness contracted by attendance." 
— Ib. iii. 206. 



the Irish Parliament to Westminster, and the diminu- 
tion of the number of Irish lords and representatives 
in the united Parliament, lessened the importance and 
position of those who were thus excluded from public 
life ; 1 and that the Government ought to have shown 
every intention to conciliate Irish feeling, and met with 
a liberal response every claim which might be advanced, 
we can only wonder that these honours were not dis- 
tributed with a more liberal hand. 2 

We have said that five British peerages were granted 
to Irish peers, four of them to Pitt's supporters. The 
number should have been much greater. This abstemious 
creation was owing to feelings of jealousy in the English 
aristocracy. One of the objections made to the Union 
by its opponents was that Ireland would not be 
sufficiently represented in the Imperial House of Lords. 
There were then about 320 members in that assembly. 
By the Act of Union twenty-eight representative peers 
and four ecclesiastical dignitaries only were to be sent 
from Ireland. The number of Irish peers who also had 
seats in the British House was very small. If, instead 
of five, twenty English peerages had been distributed 
among the Irish aristocracy, no reasonable man could 
have complained, for they well deserved such a return for 
their conduct in the extinction of the rebellion. Yet if 
such a scheme had been adopted, what a weight it would 
have lent to the baseless declamation against the Union. 


1 " This measure [the Union] goes to new-model the public conse- 
quence of every man in Parliament, and to diminish most materially 
the authority of the most powerful." — Com. Corr. iii. 122. 

2 See Lord Brabourne's Facts and Fictions of Irish History, 1886, 
where this last consideration is fully and forcibly urged. 



A freer hand, a larger discretion is allowed to 
ministers in England, but every step of the Govern- 
ment in Ireland is dogged with suspicion and followed 
by complaints or accusations. All the ideas of Irish- 
men respecting constitutional administration are neces- 
sarily derived from the practice of England. It may 
therefore be instructive to mention some of the peerage 
creations which have taken place in that country. In 
i ~ 1 1 . twelve peers were created in a batch to turn a 
majority in favour of the Court, which they did on the 
very day of their introduction. 1 In 1776, on a question 
respecting the Civil list, ten new peers were made, three 
were promoted to earldoms, and one raised to the 
dignity of viscount. Within the space of two years, in 
1796 to 1797, about the same period as the Union 
contest lasted in Ireland, thirty-five peers were created 
or promoted." At the time of the Reform Bill, not a 
more important measure than that of the Union, Lord 
Grey contemplated the creation of nearly 100 peers 3 
for the purpose of securing a majoiity. " When I went 
to Windsor with Lord Grey," says Brougham, " I had a 
list of eighty creations, framed upon the principle of 
making the least possible permanent addition to our 
House and to the aristocracy by calling up peers' eldest 
sons, by choosing men without families, by taking 
Scotch and Irish peers." The King himself gave his 
permission in writing to Lord Grey to create an 1111- 

1 They were asked in derision whether they would vote individually 
or, like a jury, by their foreman. 

2 May, Const. Hist. i. 233. 3 lb. i. 236. 


limited number. 1 Nor did the proposal excite any 
repugnance in the public mind. On the 7th of January, 
1832, Sydney Smith wrote to Lady Grey that everybody 
expected such a creation as a matter of course, adding 
his own opinion : "I am for forty, to make things safe 
in committee." Many of Lord Grey's friends and all 
the Liberal press concurred in this advice. 

The contest for Reform in 1832 and that for the Union 
in 1800 were similar in this respect. Both were struggles 
in which the Government, backed by the people, con- 
tended with a powerful aristocracy for privileges which 
had been long enjoyed without question, but which 
belonged to the public. In England the coercion of 
the House of Lords by the threat of an indefinite 
creation of peers has never been blamed. In Ireland 
the granting of a small number of peerages after a long 
period of service, and for the purpose of extinguishing 
what Lord Castlereagh well called " the fee simple of 
Irish corruption/' has ever been declaimed against as 
bribery and baseness. 

On two occasions only during the long discussion on 
the Union, did the anti-Unionists venture to put their 
accusations against the Government to the proof. On 
these occasions charges were brought that Government 
or its agents violated the liberties of the subjects by 
preventing them from meeting to petition Parliament 
against the Union. The first of these charges was made 

1 " The KiDg grants permission to Earl Grey and to his Chancellor, 
Lord Brougham, to create such a number of peers as will be sufficient 
to assure the passing of the Eeform Bill, first calling up peers' eldest 
sons. — William E." 



on the 9th February, 1799.. when Mr., afterwards Sir 
Jonah Barrington, alleged that Sir Charles Asgill had 
prevented the mayor of Clonrnel from holding a meeting 
to discuss the measure of Union by the interference of 
the military power, though a public request had been 
made to the mayor to call such a meeting. 

This accusation was brought forward without any 
proof or documents to support it, and deservedly 
subjected its mover to the reproof of the Attorney- 
General for having challenged the conduct of a public 
officer without any evidence. The facts were, Sir 
Charles Asgill had learned that the mayor was about to 
summon a meeting to discuss the Union. The meeting 
was not confined to the town, but was to be general 
and indiscriminate. Sir Charles warned the mayor 
that such an assembly, not limited to his townsmen, 
would be extremely hazardous for the peace of the place 
so soon after the rebellion, and in a proclaimed district. 
He also stated that if the mayor insisted on calling the 
meeting, that officer must be answerable for the con- 
sequences, but that there was no objection of airy kind 
to the mavor's calling a meeting of the freeholders and 
inhabitants of the town. Mr. Barrington attempted to 
justify his conduct, but the Speaker interfered, and the 
matter ended there. 1 It is evident that if there had 
been anything in the matter, the charge would have 
been pressed home. The anti-Unionists had a majority 
at this time in the House, and they were flushed with 
their recent victory over the Government on the 24th 
of January preceding. An accusation of this kind, if 
1 Belfast Xeics Letter, 15th Feb. 1799. 


successfully urged, would have seriously affected sub- 
sequent divisions. 

The second occasion was on the 5 th of February, 
1800. Sir Lawrence Parsons, on that day, accused 
Major Eogers, the Commandant at Birr, and the high 
sheriff, Mr. Darby, of having attempted to prevent a 
meeting of the freeholders of Birr, on Sunday, the 2nd 
of February, which was called to petition against the 
Union, and of having threatened to disperse it by 
military force. The Opposition hoped to prove the 
accusation, and also that it was by the orders of 
Government that the attempt was made to prevent or 
intimidate the meeting. 1 The charge was investigated 
by the House of Commons. After a long examination 
of witnesses, it appeared that there was no attempt 
whatever made to prevent the meeting. That, on the 
contrary, the high sheriff, though he considered such a 
meeting on a Sunday illegal, allowed it, lest any 
advantage should be taken of his interference to inflame 
the people ; and that the measures taken by Major 
Bogers had been taken on the express directions of the 
high sheriff, who had merely desired him to hold 
himself in readiness in case a tumult should arise. It 
further appeared that Major Bogers had received ex- 
press orders from the Lord-Lieutenant not to inter- 
fere, but to allow the meeting to assemble without 
interruption. 2 

The House was unanimous as to the conduct of the 
persons accused, and only differed as to the degree of 
praise which should be awarded to them. At length, 
1 Com. Corr. iii. 190. 2 lb. 



Mr. Plunket moved an amendment to insert certain 
words in the vote of approbation. The amendment 
was carried, and the entire resolution as amended runs in 
these words : ' ; That the conduct of Yerney Darby, Esq., 
late high sheriff of the King's County, and the conduct 
of Major Rogers, have not been intended to interfere 
with the undoubted right of the people of Ireland to 
petition their representatives in Parliament, but have 
been solely directed with a view to the preservation of 
the public peace : that it has been loyal, expedient, and 
meritorious, and is altogether highly deserving the 
approbation of this House." 1 

During the long struggle of the Union, seven 
members only of the Opposition were dismissed by the 
Government from offices held during pleasure. These 
were Sir John Parnell, Chancellor of the Exchequer ; 
James Fitzgerald, the Prime Sergeant ; Colonel Foster, 
a son of the Speaker, and four inferior officers whose 
names are given below. 2 It was absolutely necessary 
to dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the 
Prime Sergeant, if the Government wished to show 
that they were in earnest in proposing the measure of 
a Union. The Chancellorship and the Prime Sergeantcy 
were two of the greatest offices in the country. The 
Chancellor of the Exchequer represented the Govern- 
ment in the House of Commons on all matters of trade 

1 Journals of the House of Commons, xix. pt. i. 41. 

2 Colonel Wolfe, Commissioner of Revenue; Mr. Neville, Com- 
missioner of Accounts ; Major C. Hamilton, Barrack Board ; Mr. 
H. Hamilton, Cursitor in Chancery. Mr. J. B. Beresford and the 
Hon. George Knox were not dismissed; they resigned. — Corn. Corr. 
iii- 45> 5 1 - 


and finance. The Prime Sergeant took precedence of 
the Attorney-General, and his position was the first 
and most lucrative in the profession of the law. The 
holders of these offices were the consulting advisers of 
the administration, and both were members of the Privy 
Council. It was their duty to propose and recommend 
to the House every measure which the Government in 
its wisdom thought right to bring forward. To have 
proceeded with the Union, and at the same time to 
have retained in office and employ two of the most 
determined opponents of the measure, would have been 
absurd and paradoxical. The only effect of such 
conduct would have been to implant in the mind of 
the public, doubts and suspicions of the sincerity of 

Colonel Foster was dismissed on the ground that he 
had voted against the Government, and that he was the 
son of the Speaker, the declared enemy of the Union. 
"In particular," writes Pitt on the 26th January, 1799, 
" it strikes me as essential not to make an exception to 
this line in the instance of the Speaker's son. No 
Government can stand on a safe and respectable ground 
which does not show that it feels itself independent of 
him. With respect to persons of less note, or those who 
have been only neutral, more lenity may perhaps be advis- 
able." 1 To the same effect the Duke of Portland writes 
in the same month. " It may be necessary to make 
the Speaker himself and the country sensible that his 
rank and situation cannot preserve their employments 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 57. 



to such of his family and dependants as act in opposition 
to the measures of Government." 1 

With respect to the dismissal of the four other officers, 
students of the Cornwallis and Castlereagh correspon- 
dence know how unwilling the Government was to 
remove any of the minor officials. 2 But there are 
certain considerations to be kept in mind when we 
judge of the wisdom of these dismissals. AVc must, 
above all, remember the great difference which existed 
between a (invernment official in England and one in 
Ireland. In England, an unfavourable vote of the 
House of Commons overturned the ministry, and with 
the ministry, fell all those who held subordinate offices 
at pleasure. This liability to go out with the Govern- 
ment, determined the action and votes of its supporters, 
and kept them true to the party upon which they de- 
pended. But a change of ministry in England hardly 
affected such persons in Ireland. If they had attached 
themselves to a powerful parliamentary interest, they 
were too strong for the King's representative, nor could 
they be dismissed without alienating the party to which 
they belonged. The consequence of this state of things 
was, that the King's Irish servants had for many years 
shown themselves capricious and impracticable, veering 
and changing about, as they thought their own imme- 
diate interests required. They were little disposed to 
lend a steady and continued support to any Govern- 
ment. Now that Pitt was resolved to make the Union 
" the grand and primary object of all his policy towards 

1 Cast. Corr. ii. 136. 

2 Corn. Corr. iii. 46, 47. Cast. Corr. ii. 136. 


Ireland/' 1 he determined to break down this system of 
selfish oscillation, and for that purpose to make use of 
the means the Constitution afforded him. Accordingly, 
at the very commencement of the struggle, in January, 
1799, he dismissed a few, but only a few, of the re- 
calcitrant Government officials. As the contest pro- 
ceeded, and Pitt became assured of the change of feeling 
which had come over the country, his Government 
disdained to take any notice of those who voted against 
the measure. 

It has been the invariable constitutional custom in 
England to dismiss those members of the Government 
or officials who, on any grave question of policy, oppose 
the ministry. For a slight act of insubordination Mr. 
Huskisson was summarily ejected from the administra- 
tion in 1828. It was proposed at this time that the two 
members which the disfranchised borough of East Ketford 
had lost should be given to Birmingham. The Premier, 
the Duke of Wellington, was of opinion that they should 
be given to the hundred in which East Retford was 
situated. Mr. Huskisson voted for the former propo- 
sition, and was at once dismissed. The answer of the 
Duke to the excuse that Huskisson probably acted under 
a mistake, is well known. " There is no mistake, and 
there must be no mistake in the matter." In 1831 
reports of dissensions in the Cabinet on the question of 
the Reform Bill had got abroad. To give these reports 
an authoritative contradiction and to restore popular 
confidence in the sincerity of the administration, Lord 
Grey insisted on the dismissal of Lord Howe, the 

1 His own words, Corn. Corr. iii. 57. 



Queens Chamberlain, and other officers of Her Majesty's 
household, who in their own persons or those of their 
near relatives and connections had opposed the Bill. In 
1839 the principle was carried even farther by Sir 
Robert Peel. This statesman refused to undertake the 
formation of a ministry unless the Queen would dismiss 
her bed-chamber women, and that merely because they 
were relatives of those who were opposed to his policy. 
If in England, in 1831 and 1839, even the friends and 
connections of the opponents of the ministry were 
rightly regarded as dangerous enemies, and if in the 
former year many such were dismissed for the purpose of 
gaining the confidence of the public in the Cabinet, how 
much more necessary was it in Ireland to remove re- 
fractory officials, who by their own votes opposed the 
measure introduced b\ Government. To establish a 
conviction in the popular mind in 1800, that the 
Government considered a Union of transcendent im- 
portance to both countries, and that it was their fixed 
intention to persevere with it, it was indispensable to get 
rid of such of their own officers as were hostile to the 


Accusations against the Government (confAnued). — Money 
payments to members for their votes. — Military terrorism. 

It lias been often, and is still, alleged that money pay- 
ments were made by the Government to Irish members 
for their votes. This accusation rests on extracts from a 
few letters of Lord Castlereagh contained in the Cornwallis 
correspondence. We shall lay before our readers the 
whole of the evidence, which appears to us defective as 
proof, and hardly sufficient to excite more than a passing 
doubt in the mind of an impartial man. There is really 
but one letter of Lord Castlereagh, dated the 27th of 
February, 1 800, which can give rise to suspicion. When 
we come to examine the position of the Government at 
the time this letter was written, and for twelve months 
previously, and also all the circumstances which existed 
at that moment, our suspicion will be greatly modified, 
if not entirely removed. 

If it were the case that this letter, which gives rise to 
our doubts, was written at a time when the Government 
was hard pressed, or even soon after the time of such 
pressure, w r e ought undoubtedly to start in this examina- 
tion with a strong presumption against the Government. 



For it would be expecting too much from them to believe 
that they would have hesitated at some expenditure, at 
a time when the opposition was resorting to open and 
Undisguised bribery, and when they themselves were 
endeavouring to carry a measure which was ardently 
desired by the English people, 1 and which they con- 
sidered to be necessary for the salvation of the country. 2 
But Buch was very far from being the case. From the 
first suggestion of a Union, the Government had an over- 

on * 

whelming majority in the Lords. In the House of Com- 
mons, it is true that a small majority of five had, on the 
24th of January, 1799, at the beginning of the contest 
and before that Assembly or the country had time for 
reflection, refused to entertain the measure. But on the 
very first occasion on which a clear issue was knit 
between the Government and their opponents, viz., on 
Lord Corry's motion on the 15th of February, 1799, for 
a committee on the state of the nation, there was a 
decided majority of twenty for the Government and this 
too only three weeks after the first mention of a Union. 
During the remainder of the Session of 1799, the growl- 
ing strength of the Government, and the decline of the 
Opposition were clearly manifested. The Eegency Bill, 
introduced by the anti-Unionists, was shattered to pieces 
by the unanswerable arguments of Lord Castlereagh, 
and finally dropped. 3 In the only other division on the 

1 The British House of Commons then consisted of 558 members. 
There never were more than thirty opponents of the Union among 

2 " This country could not be saved without the Union." — 
Cornwallis to Ross. Corn. Corr. iii. 249. 

3 " The clauses (in the Regency Bill) which had been struck out 


question of Union in this year, viz., on the 15th of May, 
the Government was successful by a majority of fifteen 
in a thin house of seventy-nine. In other matters also 
during this session, the Government was equally suc- 
cessful. Thus in the two divisions on the Martial Law 
or Eebellion Act, which the anti-Unionists opposed with 
all their might, a motion to delay the committee for 
one day only, was negatived by seventy -two votes to 
thirty-three, and the sole amendment proposed was 
rejected by a hundred and twenty-one votes to eighteen. 1 
This very large majority arose from the support of the 
country gentlemen who rallied round the Government. 2 

The Parliament rose on the 1st of June, 1799. We 
have seen how the country manifested its desire for a 
Union during the seven months which elapsed between 
the rising of Parliament and its re-assembling on the 
1 6th of January, 1800. On the first division in the 
new year, which took place on the first day of the meet- 
ing of Parliament, the Government had a majority of 
forty-two on the Union question. On the 5th of February 
the majority on the same measure was forty-three. On 
the 1 8th of February it was forty-six. On the 4th of 
March it was forty- eight. On the 21st of May it rose to 
sixty, and finally to sixty-five on the 6th of June. 

If we keep in mind the preponderance of the Govern- 
ment in the House of Commons from the 15th of 
February, 1799, throughout the rest of the Session, and 

in committee were printed in the form of notes to the Bill, and were 
as much at variance with the clauses which had been let to stand as 
these latter were inconsistent among themselves." — Baron Smith, 
letter to Foster, the Speaker, 1799. 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 62. 2 lb. 



the enthusiasm the country manifested from the rising 
of Parliament on the ist of June till its meeting again 
in January, 1800, it is impossible to deny that the Union 
was practically carried in 1799, and that in 1800 the 
Government had only to collect the fruits of its victory. 

There are in the Cornwallis Correspondence many 
letters, which passed between the Government and their 
Irish servants, labelled u Secret and Confidential," 
" Private and Confidential," <; Most Secret and Confi- 
dential." Yet with the exception of the few letters of 
Fiord Castlereagh, on which this accusation is based, 
there is not a word which can excite a shadow of 
suspicion that money payments were made to Irish 
members. Even in those letters from Ireland which 
complain that an Opposition Fund was established for 
the purpose of bribery, there is no hint or allusion which 
can be tortured into a sus^estion that the Irish ministers 
ever entertained an idea of fighting with similar weapons. 
On the contrary, we have the declaration of Lord Corn- 
wallis that he had not the means to bribe, and that if he 
had, he could not venture to risk the credit of Govern- 
ment in the hands " of such rascals " as would accept 
the wages of corruption. If the Government did really 
spend money in purchasing votes, it is at least strange, 
that in these many most secret and confidential com- 
munications there is no allusion to, or hint of such 
proceedings. And it is still stranger, that in the year 
in which the real contest of the Union was decided, viz., 
1799, there was only the small sum of 5,000/. sent over 
to Lord Castlereagh, the use of which can be, as we shall 
see, perfectly explained and justified. 



The first of the letters of Lord Castlereagh asking for 
advances from the English Treasury is dated the 2nd of 
January, 1799. In this letter he asks for a sum of 
5000/., which was granted. The writer mentions the 
use to which he intended to apply the money, viz., the 
publication of pamphlets and writings recommending a 
Union. "Already we feel the want, and indeed the 
absolute necessity of the primum mobile. We cannot 
give that activity to the press which is requisite. We 
have good materials amongst the young barristers, but 
we cannot expect them to waste their time and starve 
into the bargain." He then goes on to apologise for 
asking this sum, small as it is, as he says he knows the 
difficulties of the Treasury. Lord Cornwallis tells us 
" that every publication of merit has been systematically 
and most extensively circulated," 1 and we know from 
other sources that ten thousand copies of Pitt's speech 
on the Irish Union were published and diffused through 
the country. This sum of 5000/. was the only money 
sent to Lord Castlereagh in 1 799. 

It may indeed be said that the publication of pamphlets 
and speeches recommending a Government measure was 
a species of bribery. But if this be urged, it is hard to 
understand the meaning of the expression. It might 
naturally be thought that laying before the public a full 
and fair exposition of its policy, and thus explaining it 
at length to the constituencies, was the most justifiable 
means to which a constitutional Government could 

On the 17th of December, 1799, Lord Castlereagh 
1 Com. Corr. iii. 105. 


again asks for an advance in a letter to the Duke of 
Portland. " Your Grace, I trust, will not be surprised 
at my requesting that you will assist us in the same way 
and to the same extent as you did previous to Mr. 
Elliot's leaving London. The advantages have been 
important, and it is very desirable that this request 
should be complied with without delay." That is, he 
asks for a further sum of 5,000/. No answer was given 
to this request. On the 2nd of January, 1800, he 
writes, not to the Duke, but to Mr. King, the Under- 
Secretary of State : "I am impatient to hear from you 
on the subject of my letter to the Duke. We are in 
great distress, and I wish the transmiss was more con- 
siderable than the last ; it is very important that we 
should not be destitute of the means on which so much 
depends." This request was complied with, though the 
exact sum sent is not mentioned, for we have a 
memorandum in King's writing respecting this advance. 
" It was sent this day to Lord Castlereagh. I ventured 
so far as to observe to Lord Castlereagh that the fund 
was good security for a still further sum, though not 
immediately, if it could be well laid out and furnished 
on the spot. I trust I did not go too far." The words 
in King's memorandum, " If it could be well laid out and 
furnished on the spot," are remarkable. They cannot be 
referred to money payments for votes. Suspicion itself 
could hardly extract any meaning from them as applied 
to such an application of the advance. The words, too, 
of Lord Castlereagh, " We are in great distress " for 
the want of such a sum as 5,000/., add to our difficulty 9 
if we suppose that this small advance was intended for 

p 2 


the purchase of votes. Unless we are determined to 
guide our judgment by what Carlyle calls " preternatural 
suspicion/' we may dismiss these two letters of Lord 
Castlereagh from any further consideration. 

The next letter is the only one which affords any 
ground for doubt. We shall first give it, and the answer 
from England, as abstracted in the Cornwallis corre- 
spondence, for they are not given in full. We shall then 
set out the letter in full, and the answer also in full, so 
far as it relates to Lord Castlereagh' s application. Our 
readers will remark a few mistakes in the letter, and 
serious changes in the answer which alter its character 

The Cornwallis abstract of Lord Castlereagh's letter 
runs as follows : — 

" Viscount Castlereagh to John King, Esq. 
" Private and Secret. 

" Dublin Castle, Feb. 2jth, 1800. 

" My Dear Sir,— 

" .... I see no prospect of converts ; the Opposition are 
steady to each other. I hope we shall be able to keep our friends 
true. A few votes 1 might have a very injurious effect. We require 
your assistance, and you must be prepared to enable us to fulfil the 
expectations which it was impossible to avoid creating at the moment 
of difficulty. You may be sure 2 we have rather erred on the side 
of moderation. . . ." 

Lord Castlereagh appears to have been " in great dis- 
tress " at this time, for two davs later, on the 1st of 
March, 1800, the Irish Under-Secretary, Mr. Cooke, writes 

1 This word "votes" should be "rats." See the letter in full, 
post. 2 "Sure" should be "assured." 



to hasten the transmission of the money, and it would 
seem that he was obliged to go to London about it, 
for it is from him that the answer comes. It is 
abstracted thus in the Cornwallis correspondence : — 

" Edward Cooke to Viscount Castlereagh. 
u Secret. 

"London, April $th, 1800. 

"My Dear Lord, — 

M I have seen the Duke of Portland and Mr. Pitt a second 
time. The Duke is anxious to send you the needful. Mr. Pitt was 
equally disposed, but fears it is impossible to the extent. He will 
continue 1 to let you have from 8,000/. to 10,000/. for five years. 2 I 
hope to find out to-night what sum can be sent." 3 

Here is Lord Castlereagh's letter in full : — 4 

"Dublin Castle, Feb. 27th, 1800. 

" My Dear Sir — 

14 We were disappointed to day in our attendance. To-morrow 
we go on with commerce. Several evidences are summon'd, which 
will delay us. We shall sit every day, and tire them out if they 
attempt to make a vexatious delay. 

" I see no prospect of converts. The Opposition are steady to 
each other. I hope we shall be able to keep our friends true. A 
few rats might have a very injurious effect. We require your assist- 
ance, and you must he prepared to enable us to fulfil the expectations 
which it was impossible to avoid creating at the moment of difficulty. 
You may be assured we have rather err'd on the side of moderation. 

1 This word "continue" is a mistake for "contrive." 

2 Three sentences are here left out. 

3 The rest of the abstract refers to other matters. The whole 
letter is very imperfectly abstracted. See letter in full, post. 

4 Received from the Public Records Office, London. The waiter 
gratefully acknowledges the courtesy and promptitude with which 
his requests for information were met in the Record Offices in 
London and Dublin. 


" The prices of subsistence here are very extravagant. We have 
instituted a committee to inquire into our prospects. We are toler- 
ably well provided in oats and potatoes ; wheat and barley certainly 
deficient, the supply coastways being interrupted by the prevalence 
of easterly winds. The northern counties have been much em- 

The Treasury was in no hurry to reply to this demand. 
The answer in full, as far as it relates to Lord Castle- 
reagh's request, runs as follows : — 1 

"Mr. Cooke to Lord Castlereagh. 
" Secret. 

"London, April $th, 1800. 

" My Dear Lord, — 

" I have seen the Duke of Portland and Mr. Pitt a second 
time. The Duke is anxious to send you the needful. Mr. Pitt was 
equally disposed, but fears it is impossible to the extent. He will 
contrive to let you have from 8,ooo£. to 10,000^. for five years. He 
will make no alterations. However, the woollen manufacturers 
press that, as the raw material is to be given, all the duties on 
woollens should cease. Mr. Pitt wishes you could let him know the 
sense of the Irish manufacturers on this point, in case they should 
wish the abolition of duties. He will, however, keep things as they 
are ; but doing so may occasion delay. I hope to find out to-night 
what sum can be sent." 

We have here a clear request from Lord Castlereagh 
to the Treasury for money to enable him to satisfy 
expectations created " at the moment of difficulty." To 
whom was the money to be given ? The prejudiced and 
partial, who conclude without inquiring, affect to believe 
that it was intended to be given to Irish members of 
Parliament for having relieved by their votes the 

1 The whole letter is given in the Cast. Corr. in. 260. 



Government in a moment of difficulty, but to this 
solution there are objections so grave as to be 

i. If it was to be given to members for their votes, 
the moment of difficulty must have occurred in Parlia- 
ment. But when could this difficulty have arisen ? It 
must have happened, if at all, either in the session of 
1799 or that of 1800. At the time Lord Castlereagh's 
application was written, more than a twelvemonth had 
passed since the slightest difficulty had arisen in Parlia- 
ment. Nine months, all but two days, had elapsed since 
the Parliament had risen on the 1st of June, 1799. How 
are we to account for the silence of Lord Castlereagh 
during these nine months, and his long delay in applying 
for the means of rewarding those who had helped him in 
his moment of difficulty ? 

The moment of difficulty could hardly have happened 
in the session of 1800. The Parliament met on the 15th 
of January. On the very first night the Government 
had a majority of forty-two ; on the 5th of February, a 
majority of forty-three; and on the 1 8th of February, 
nine days before Lord Castlereagh's letter was written, a 
majority of forty-six. On the 24th of February, three days 
before the letter was written, the seventh article of the 
Union, out of eight in all propounded by Lord Castlereagh, 
was carried without a division, after a motion that the 
Speaker should leave the chair had been defeated by a 
majority of forty-two. The Government had been for 
more than a year, and was then, so prosperous in all 
their proceedings in Parliament, that it would have 
been pure wantonness on their part to have risked their 


credit in buying votes in face of an Opposition on the 
look out for accusations against them, and who were 
nightly declaiming on the corruption of Government. 

2. What are we to think of the insignificance of the 
sum promised, " from 8,000/. to 10,000/. for five years " ? 
What would have been the use of such a sum when the 
Opposition at this very time were boasting that they 
had 100,000/ collected, and were offering 5,000/. ready 
money for a vote ? On the 29th of January, 1800, 
Lord Castlereagh writes to the Duke of Portland : " We 
have undoubted proofs, though not such as we can dis- 
close, that they are enabled to offer as high as 5,000/. 
for an individual vote." On the 8th of February, 1800, 
Lord Cornwallis states : " The enemy, to my certain 
knowledge, offer 5,000/ ready money for a vote." These 
statements are not the unsupported allegations of 
political opponents ; they are substantiated by what we 
have seen is acknowledged in Grattans Life and in 
Barrington's writings. It is beyond doubt that Whaley 
received 4,000/ from the Opposition to change sides and 
vote against the Union in the month of February, 1800. 

3. If this promised money was to be spent in rewarding 
those who had voted for the Government, how are we 
to account for the transitory duration of the reward ? 
Why should the recompense of a needy member be 
limited to five years % This is inexplicable. Such a 
person would know that his vote would help to extin- 
guish the assembly which offered him an opportunity of 
future profits. As its extinction would be perpetual, 
he would naturally expect a provision for life, or such a 
sum down as would compensate him for closing for ever 



the sources of his emoluments. If any of the Irish 
members sold their votes for a share in a small annual 
sum for five years, they were certainly content with a low 
price and a very imperfect security. If corruption was 
so rife at this period, as has been alleged, how much 
more secure it would have been to have obtained a 
place or a pension, or at least the promise of such, since 
according to this theory they were content with the 
promise of payment. 

4. The money was not sent at once ; there was merely 
a promise of an annual sum for five years. Great Britain 
is not usually so niggard in her rewards for services 
rendered, or in her expenditure to facilitate a political 
change. A single payment, at the time of the Union 
with Scotland, to smooth difficulties and to keep the 
Scotch merchants quiet, cost England nearly 400,000// 
To incorporate the Isle of Man with her customs' 
system, Great Britain was content to expend half a 
million. 2 Yet on the occasion of which we are speaking, 
it is evident from Pitt's answer that the demand of 
Lord Castlereagh was unexpected, and that the advance 
of the money was attended with difficulty ; "he will 
contrive to let you have from 8,000/. to 10,000/. for five 
years." On the other hand, there was no hesitation on 
the part of the Irish members to accept the promise of 
Lord Castlereagh, rather than the ready money of the 
Opposition. It is a demand upon our credulity to 
believe that these traitors were satisfied with the promise 

1 The "equivalent," as it was called, amounted to 398,085/. 10s. 

2 430,000/. in 1826. 70,000/. and a pension of 2,000/. a year had 
been given previously. 


of a share in 8 5 ooo/. or 10,000/. for five years when 
they had only to walk across the floor of the House to 
receive each his 5,000/. ready money for recording his 
vote for the continuance of a Parliament to which he 
owed his influence and importance. If these Irish 
members were not honest, and the accusation declares 
they were not, they were at least possessed of moderation 
in the highest degree. For as they were to be satisfied 
with a share in " from 8,000/. to 10,000/. for five years " 
they could not have made a very hard bargain with the 
Government for their votes, and that, too, in a moment 
of difficulty. 

We have suggested reasons which make it improbable 
that the " moment of difficulty " alluded to by Lord 
Castlereagh, could have occurred in Parliament, or that 
his letter referred to members of that assembly. Were 
there no bodies or classes out of Parliament which might 
have created a difficulty or delayed the passing of the 
Union ? Were the manufacturers of Ireland likely to 
remain quiet and silent when it was proposed to abolish 
the protective duties which enabled them to exist in the 
face of English competition, and when there was a com- 
pact Opposition in Parliament ready to seize on every 
opportunity which might occasion embarrassment to the 
Government or delay in the measure of Union V A short 
time before the 27th of February, a "moment of 

1 The aim of the anti-Unionists at this time, as Plunket said in 
the House, was "to defeat the measure, to decline any responsibility, 
to avoid giving it any sanction, to leave it encumbered with all its 
imperfections, that the public might be convinced of its ruinous 
tendency, and join in reprobating it." — Cornwallis to Portland, 
25th Feb. 1800. 



difficulty/' outside of Parliament, had arrived to Lord 
Castlereagh, and at the time he was writing the letter 
of that date, the anti-Unionists, who had seized on the 
opportunity, were making use of it to alarm the 
mercantile interests and to excite an uproar against the 
Union. Our readers will have remarked the abrupt 
appearance of Lord Castlereagh's demand for an advance 
in a letter otherwise purely commercial, and the still 
more abrupt appearance of Pitt's promise among matters 
referring: to the alteration of duties. The sudden 
transition from Pitt's promise, " he will contrive to let 
you have from 8000/. to 10.000/. for five years," to the 
words, " he will make no alterations : however the woollen 
manufacturers press that, &c," shows us that the mind 
of the writer was not dwelling on matters of bribery, 
but on the proposed changes in the tariff. A considera- 
tion of the context of the answer, and a knowledge of 
what was then going on before a committee of the Irish 
Commons will suggest that this annual sum for five 
years was not intended for members of Parliament at all, 
but was to be distributed among some Irish manufac- 
turers who were likely to suffer from the new duties 
between the two countries. 

The sixth article of the Union, that is, the com- 
mercial one, had been carried on the 21st of February, 
and a committee of the House was engaged in taking 
evidence, as is referred to in Lord Castlereagh's letter, 1 as 
to the way in which the Irish manufacturers would be 
affected by the duties proposed to be inserted in the 
schedule attached to the article. Before the Union the 
1 " To-morrow we go on with commerce," etc. 



Irish manufacturers of cotton and muslin were protected 
by prohibitory duties varying from 35 to 50 per 
cent., 1 and the English manufacturers were able to 
undersell the Irish by the latter amount. 2 It was 
proposed by Pitt at first to equalise the duties between 
the two countries, and for this purpose to reduce, among 
others, those on calicoes and muslins at once to 10 per 
cent. The Irish manufacturers petitioned against the 
reduction, produced evidence and were heard by counsel 
before a committee of the House. Lord Castlereagh 
thought that this class had made out a case of hardship, 
and was at this time pressing Pitt to consent to a post- 
ponement of the reduction of the duties. The Irish 
trade in calicoes and muslins was an important one, and 
gave employment to between 30,000 and 40,000 hands. 3 
Pitt was very unwilling to consent to any postpone- 
ment, as, to use his own words, it would interfere with 
the " general principle of liberal intercourse which we 
wish to establish.'' Besides, he was importuned by the 
English manufacturers that as the raw material would 
go free to Ireland, all the protective duties should cease. 

1 " But of all the articles the one that affects us most is cotton. 
By the petition presented a few hours ago, it appears that the 
present duties on plain calicoes may be estimated at between 40 
and 50 per cent, of the value ; on plain muslius about 35 per 
cent. ; and on coloured, or worked, or figured, very little less." — 
Speech of Eight Hon. J. Foster, 17th Feb. 1800. Cast. Corr. 
iii. 205. 

2 This was given in evidence by the Irish manufacturers. — lb. 

3 " It is evident . . . that a sudden reduction of the duty must, at 
least for a time, ruin the trade which now employs from 30,000 to 
40,000 persons. The individuals have little capital to bear a shock." 
—Castlereagh to Rose, 7th March, 1800. Cast. Corr. iii. 251. 



While the Irish manufacturers were pressing their com- 
plaints respecting the reduction of the duties, and the 
danger to their trade, the anti-Unionists saw their 
opportunity, and did not let it slip. Their language 
aroused a strong feeling among the manufacturing and 
commercial interests. 1 Both Lord Cornwallis and Lord 
Castlereagh " were very anxious to conciliate these 
classes, whose influence lay principally in the north of 
Ireland, where the mass of the population was at this 
time perfectly loyal." 2 Lord Castlereagh resolved to 
deprive the anti-L'nionists of the means of exciting the 
country, and raising a cry against the Union. He 
therefore proposed to the manufacturers a compromise, 
viz., that these duties should be continued for five 
years. Pitt consented to this, lest, as he tells Lord 
Castleivagh, " you should expose yourself to any risk, 
or even any material additional difficulty in the general 
system." 3 The Irish manufacturers held out for a 
further extension of time, and Lord Castlereagh, who 
had obtained from Pitt permission to use his own 
discretion, 4 was so anxious to cut the ground from under 
the anti-L'nionists, that he consented to a prolongation 
for seven instead of five years. It is possible, even 
probable, when we consider the wording of Pitt's answer 
to Lord Castlereagh's request for an advance, that the 
sum of " from 8,ooo/. to 10,000/. for five years " was a 
portion of the terms given to the Irish manufacturers 
to keep them quiet, and induce them to accept the 
compromise offered by Lord Castlereagh. This is 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 217. 2 lb. 

3 Cast. Corr. iii. 250. 4 lb. 251. 


rendered even more probable by the fact that some time 
previously Lord Castlereagh had it under his considera- 
tion to compensate the Irish cotton manufacturers by 
the payment of the large sum of 200,000/. 1 

On the hypothesis of the bribery of members of 
Parliament, we might naturally expect that the passing 
of the Union Bill would put an end to any further 
demands. But we shall find that they go on to the 5th 
of May, 1 80 1, eleven months after the Bill had been 
carried in the Commons, by a majority of sixty-five. 
On the 10th of July, 1800, Mr. Marsden writes to 
Cooke, who must have been in London : " Lord Castle- 
reagh wishes me to remind you of the necessity of 
supplies; we are in great want." And on the 12th 
Lord Castlereagh also writes to the same gentleman : 
" 1 hope you will settle with King our further ways and 
means ; from the best calculation I can make we shall 
absolutely require the remainder of what I asked for, 
namely fifteen, to wind up matters, exclusive of the 
annual arrangement, and an immediate supply is much 
wanted ; if it cannot be sent speedily, I hope we may 
discount it here. Pray arrange this, and if they could 
give G-eneral Bude 2 his 300/. in England, it would 
be very convenient at this moment of extreme 

No attention appears to have been paid to this 
request, for five months later, on the 9th of December, 
1 800, Mr. Cooke (Lord Castlereagh being then absent) 

1 Cast. Gorr. iii. 207. 

2 A French emigrant. Lord Castlereagh's request was not attended 
to. General Bude's pension was charged on the Irish establishment. 



writes to Mr. Kino; : " There are several matters which 
have been recently officially recommended by the Lord- 
Lieutenant, and as the time of the Union approaches, it 
is extremely wished that every matter depending should 
be concluded before that time." 

Upon this letter Mr. King writes the significant 
memorandum : "I know of none except the arrange- 
ments of the Secretary's office and the Catholic question, 
to which no answer has been given, and even with 
respect to those they have been told that they could 
not be determined till Lord Castlereagh should arrive." 

On the same day on which Cooke wrote to King, viz., 
the 9th of December, Mr. Marsden also writes to him : 
" I am induced to write to you from the great degree of 
inconvenience which I am subjected to, by the delay in 
sending over the King's letter for putting into our hands 
the money saved in the Civil List in this country, to be 
applied to secret service here. It has fallen to my lot to 
make a considerable number of engagements, which this 
money was to discharge, and I am pressed, in some 
instances in the most inconvenient degree, to make 
good my promises." 

No answer was given to this pressing demand, for 
Mr. Marsden again writes to King, on the 6th of May, 
1 80 1 : "I am again under the necessity of entreating 
your aid to have our money matters settled. I have 
already informed you how distressingly I am, more than 
any one, embarked in this business, and since I wrote to 
you nothing has been received." This is the last letter 
on the subject. 

In examining the facts of history, we ought not to 



give undue predominance to suspicion, or allow it to 
press upon our judgment. Is it not absurd to refer 
every act of the Government to the worst motives, when 
we know that there were many ways in which these 
two small sums of "from 8,000/. to 10,000/. for five 
years" and 15,000/. might have have been properly and 
justly expended ? The Government must have entered 
into innumerable engagements during the rebellion and 
the disturbed times which succeeded it. Up to July, 
1800, " the most strenuous exertions of the military 
had failed to extirpate the banditti who infested some 
of the wild and mountainous parts of Ireland." 1 In 
1 799 and 1 800, Ireland was in a lamentable condition, 2 
and still seething in disaffection which was kept alive 
up to Emmett's rebellion in 1803. Spies had to be 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 282. 

2 The correspondence of Lord Corn wal lis presents a terrible picture 
of the country. These are some extracts : — " From the most authentic 
channels we learn that the disaffected are more active than ever in 
swearing and organising the southern provinces." — 28th Jan. 1799. 
" The mails and travellers are frequently intercepted and robbed, the 
roads being infested with banditti. The centres of Wicklow and 
Wexford remain disturbed .... and in the West the old system of 
houghing cattle has been of late revived and carried to an extent 
which threatens the most serious consequences, not only to this 
kingdom, but to the Empire." — 14th Feb. " Robberies and murders 
continue frequent in various parts, and there is every symptom that 
the mind of the lower classes is in general much agitated and pre- 
paring for new mischief." — 23rd Feb. " The state of the kingdom 
is such, from the extended nature of the conspiracy, that acts of 
rebellion are breaking out from time to time in almost every part." — 
12th March. "The county of Waterford and a part of Cork and 
Tipperary are in an unpleasant state ; meetings are held, and illegal 
oaths tendered, and the disaffected are very busy working mischief." 
— 24th Oct. 



paid, informers to be maintained, past services to be 
remunerated, and rewards for apprehensions to be offered. 
For example, in July, 1800, a reward of 210/. was 
offered in a proclamation for the capture of each of the 
first ten robbers named on a list, or of 2,100/. in a 
single matter. 1 If we consider, or are able to conceive 
the numerous and multifarious eno-aorements of this kind 
and others, which the Government must have entered 
into for the protection of the country, and if we keep 
in mind the total change about to be effected, we shall 
deem the demands on the Treasury during the year 
1800, viz., the two sums of " 8,000/. or 10,000/. for 
five years," and 15,000/., not only not extravagant, 
but entirely disproportionate to the necessities of the 

The accusation of corruption was grappled with by 
the Government and its supporters in both Houses of 
Parliament, and the Opposition was challenged to prove 
it. In the House of Lords, the Chancellor, Lord 
Clare, on the 10th of February, 1800, accused the anti- 
Unionists of having opened an exchequer "for foul 
and undisguised bribery, and named two members who 
were present in connection with his allegation. These 
peers attempted to defend themselves, but no counter- 
charge was brought forward. It is incredible, that if the 
Government had not been conscious of the integrity 
of their intentions, they would have allowed their Chan- 
cellor to dare the Opposition to the proof, or that that 
body, thus challenged, would have refrained from 
attempting to prove their case against the Government. 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 282. 



In the Commons, the highest officer of the law, the 
Prime Sergeant, who took rank before the Attorney- 
General, on the 15th of January, 1800, thus threw 
down the glove. " Some persons had had the temerity 
(for in their situation he could call it by no other name) 
to charge His Majesty's Government with corruption in 
carrying forward the measure of a Union. He should 
beg leave to contrast the conduct of that Government 
with the conduct of those who had ventured to bring 


forward that charge, some of whom had talked that 
night of proving facts at the bar ; that, it was well 
known, was a stage-trick to catch the mob ; they were 
dared, they were challenged to do so. The same trick 
was practised last session by a learned gentleman 
(Mr. M.) who chose to make himself the little hero of 
the story, but when he was pressed to come forward, 
the learned member shrunk from his own calumny." 1 
In the preceding year also, this gentleman had challenged 
the Opposition to prove their accusation of bribery. On 
that occasion he ended his speech with these words : " It 
was base to be bribed, very base, but it was baser to 
make the charge when it was known to be false." 2 
The glove thus thrown down was not taken up in either 
House. The accusation was allowed to remain then, as 
it has ever since continued- a subject for declamation, 
but not a matter for serious proof. 

It must be distinctly understood that the particular 
accusation we are now investigating, namely, that 
money was given by the Government to members for 

1 Pari. Reg. J. Milliken, Dublin, 1800. 

2 Pari. Deb. J. Moore, Dublin, 1799. 



their votes, was never made in the Irish Parliament. 
This charge is a growth of later times, and is founded, 
if such a word can be applied to it, upon the letters we 
have been considering. The accusations of the Oppo- 
sition at the time of the Union were vague and general, 
and were based upon three circumstances : the com- 
pensation for boroughs ; the dismissal of officers and the 
promotions consequent on their dismissals ; and the 
alleged terms offered to the Protestant, Catholic, and 
Presbyterian Churches. Plunket and Grattan were the 
principal members of the Opposition who urged the 
charge of corruption. Their statements may excite our 
admiration of their oratorical powers, but they are very 
far from establishing their case. " During the in- 
terval," says Plunket, "between the sessions [of 1799 
and 1800], the same barefaced system of parliamentary 
corruption has been pursued — dismissals, promotions, 
threats, promises .... bribes were promised to the 
Catholic clergy ; bribes were promised to the Presby- 
terian clergy .... and to crown all, you openly avow 
that the constitution of Ireland is to be purchased for 
a stipulated sum. I state it as a fact, that you cannot 
dare to deny, that 1 5,000/. apiece is to be given to certain 
individuals as the price for surrendering what ? their 
property ? No ! but the right of representation of the 
people of Ireland." And on the same occasion Grattan 
said, " We will now come to the bribes he [Pitt] holds 
out. And first he begins with the Church. To the 
Protestant Church he promises perpetual security ; to 
the Catholic Church his advocates promise eventual 
salary, and both hold out to the farmer commutation of 


tithes .... the minister proceeds, he proposes his 
third bribe, namely, the abolition of tithes .... the 
minister has not done with bribes ; whatever economy 
he shows in argument, here he has been generous in 
the extreme. Parson, priest, I think one of his advo- 
cates hints the Presbyterians, not forgotten, and now 
the mercantile body are all to be bribed that all may be 
ruined. He holds out commercial benefits for political 
annihilation." 1 It is in such vague and general decla- 
mation as this, that we find the germs from which the 
accusations of corruption and bribery against the 
Government and the Unionists have ripened. It is a 
melancholy reflection that there are sensible and in- 
telligent men who regard the rhetorical exaggerations 
and misrepresentations of Plunket and Grattan as facts 
and proofs. 

Finally, is no regard to be paid to the character of 
Lord Cornwallis, and to his distinct denial that bribery 
was resorted to ? Is the testimony of one who lived a 
life of honour, valour, and patriotism, to weigh nothing 
against mere suspicion ? After his services in Ireland, 
Lord Cornwallis went to India a second time, well 
knowing that he did so at the risk of his life, 2 and died 
there, a sacrifice, if ever there was one, to the call of 
duty. The breath of slander has never ventured to 
sully his name. The Governor who purified the services 
in India was not likely to dabble in corruption in 

1 For Plunket' s and Grattan' s speeches see Pari. Reg., Milliken, 
Dublin, 1800, pp. 99 and 130-r. 

2 " It is a desperate act to embark for India at the age of sixty- 
six." — Lord Cornwallis to General Ross, 24th Oct., 1804. 



Ireland, and the choice of such a man by the Govern- 
ment to carry the Union, ought to be a guarantee to 
us, that they were resolved to pass that measure by 
honest and constitutional means. 

Perhaps there never was a man less fitted for intrigue 
and corruption than Lord Cornwallis. On the occasion 
of every national crisis there are men to be found whose 
only desire is, to turn it to their own advantage, and to 
extract from the public necessity private gains. In his 
l^osition, Lord Cornwallis was obliged to listen to the 
offers of such men, and to hear the demands made for their 
undesirable co-operation. It was his duty to conciliate 
the wavering and the timid, and to avoid changing into 
irreconcilable enemies the self-seeking trimmers whom 
such a time brings forth. We know the disgust which 
his interviews with these jobbers caused him. To the 
sympathetic ear of his friend General Ross he confides 
his feelings. " The political jobbing of this country gets 
the better of me ; it has ever been the wish of my life to 
avoid all this dirty business, and I am now involved in 
it beyond all bearing, and am consequently more wretched 

than ever How I long to kick those whom my 

public duty obliges me to court The leaders of 

the Opposition, who know and eagerly pursue their own 
little dirty interests, although they are so blind as not to 
see that they must be overwhelmed in the general wreck, 
have art enough to instil their own narrow and wicked 
sentiments into the thoughtless though selfish members, 
and in the hopes of getting 300/. or 400/. a year at a 
distant period, they will hazard as many thousands which 


they at present possess." 1 Yet, while he expresses his 
horror of political jobbers, he never loses an opportunity 
of loyally praising his ministers and the members of his 
own party. His letters are full of cordial commendations 
of Lords Castlereagh and Clare, and of the subordinates 
who supported his policy in Parliament and in the 
country. Lord Cornwallis was not one of those leaders 
who attribute all the glory of a contest to themselves ; 
he was ever readv to share the credit with the followers 
who bore a part in the fray. And his approval is a proof 
to us that he did not believe that those subordinates were 
engaged in schemes of bribery and corruption. 

It has been charged against the Government that they 
poured enormous numbers of troops into Ireland for the 
purpose of over-awing the people and carrying the 
Union by intimidation. This accusation is unfounded, 
and may be dismissed with a few words. Considering 
the state of the country and the threatening attitude of 
the French, the forces in Ireland, far from being 
numerous, were inadequate. We have a return, made 
by Lord Cornwallis on the 19th July, 1799, of the 
whole available force in the country. A rebellion which 
had assumed the character of a war of extermination 
had just been put down, two French invasions had 
lately taken place, and Ireland was frightfully disturbed. 
In March 1 799, a large French fleet was assembled in 
the Texel, and another at Brest. It was believed in 
England that both were intended for Ireland, for when 
a gale of wind forced Lord Bridport, the British Admiral, 
1 Com. Corr. iii. 10 1. 



to raise the blockade, be sailed at once for Ireland 
where he expected to find the French fleet. Yet at 
this time of danger there were but 45,419 regular 
soldiers in Ireland, besides artillery. Several of the 
fencible regiments, were in an inefficient con- 
dition, and Lord Cornwallis was of opinion that no 
reliance could be placed ou the Irish Militia, as indeed 
the rout at Castlebar had shown. On the 24th July, 
1 799, Lord Cornwallis wrote to the Duke of Portland in 
these words : " The force remaining in Ireland is 
sufficient to preserve peace, totally inadequate to repel 
foreign invasion." 1 This letter was written twelve 
months before the passing of the Act of Union, and in 
the very middle of the political struggle. 

1 Corn. Corr. iii. 118. 


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